Cocoa without Child Labour

“It is a bitter reality that the main ingredient in chocolate, cocoa, is produced largely by child labor,” said US Senator Tom Harkin today. Both industry leaders and the US government have pledged to end the use of child labour in the sector. Over the next 10 years, a new plan calls for a 70% reduction in the use of child labour.

A total of US$17 million has been committed to building schools in rural areas and supplementing the incomes of rural families in the Ivory Coast and Ghana. The ultimate goal is to see rural families stay on their feet financially … without having to rely on their children’s wages.

In the Ivory Coast and Ghana, too many young boys are convinced, hoodwinked or sold into forced labour. These two countries produce more than half of the global cocoa supply, with many children working in the cocoa fields. The rates of child labour in both countries hover around 35%, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

About $2 million dollars of this new private-public funding will go toward financing the International Labor Organisation’s (ILO) International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC). The IPEC, now active in 88 countries, was created in 1992 to present a united global front against the worst forms of child labour. As defined by the ILO Convention No. 182, the worst forms of child labour include slavery, the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom, child soldiers, pornography, the use child employment in the drug trade or other illicit industries, and work harmful to the health and well-being of the child.

The overall effect of child labour on education is not always easy to accurately assess. For instance, research found that 60% of working children in the Ivory Coast and 90% in Ghana were enrolled in school. While on the surface this may indicate the child labour has little effect on working children’s schooling, the daily attendance and primary school completion rates among working children may be much lower. This is often the case in many developing countries. In the Ivory Coast, the primary school completion rate (overall) is less than 50% and is 82% in Ghana, according to data by the United Nations.

US officials hinted at the importance of responsible consumption choices, saying that in the future there may be a label for chocolate produced from ethically sources cocoa – much in the same way that tuna can be stamped “Dolphin Safe.”

(SOS Children Villages)

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