International Cocoa Initiative: Child labor eradication efforts need to be scaled up to reach 2.1 million by 2020

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12 Jun 2018 --- Coinciding with the World Against Child Labor Day (June 12), the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) has launched its 2017 Annual Report detailing how it has reached 188,000 children with child protection measures half-way through its six-year strategy – however, there is much more work to be done. By 2020, the ICI wants to reach the estimated 2.1 million children working in unacceptable forms of child labor within cocoa growing communities in Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

The non-profit foundation plans to use the data it has generated over the last three years to learn, innovate and adapt its approaches to facilitate and accelerate their scale-up. This is in a bid to reach even more children and work towards eradicating child labor for good. 

ICI initially aimed to reach 200,000 children by the end of 2020 and so the operational impact of ICI’s work from 2015 to 2017 has therefore been far more significant than anticipated. 

However, many more vulnerable children and child laborers remain unassisted in West African cocoa-growing areas, a situation that urgently calls for innovation, adaptation and capacity-building, in order to bring the good practices adopted by ICI, its members and its partners to a larger scale.

ICI’s Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS), implemented with six partner companies, had targeted 127 cooperatives and 90,826 cocoa-farming households, by the end of last year. 

The approach has been assessed as identifying over 60 percent of child labor cases and taking more than 50 percent of those cases out of child labor, according to ICI which cites “unprecedented momentum in the cocoa sector’s collective sustainability effort” as driving a rapid expansion in supply-chain due-diligence.

Additionally, through 2017, ICI continued its support to 75 cocoa-farming communities in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, through its core program where 127,299 people benefited from community development, 63,886 of whom were children. 

Some of the work to improve prospects for children includes newly built classrooms, vocational training courses and the establishment of women’s income-generating activities.

A total of 3,949 children were newly enrolled in school between 2016 and 2017 as a direct result of ICI’s actions in the communities.

“We are proud of our achievements but humbled by the task at hand,” says Nick Weatherill, Executive Director of ICI. “Progress on the targets set by ICI’s Strategy, and by CocoaAction, is significant, but as the recent Cocoa Barometer highlighted, we’ll still only have reached less than 20 percent of the estimated 2.1 million children working in unacceptable forms of child labor by 2020.”

In April, a damning report into the cocoa sector claimed that widely touted efforts in the industry to improve the lives of farmers, communities and the environment made over the last decade are having little impact. 

Despite many of the big players in the cocoa and chocolate supply chain working on sustainability issues like trying to eradicate child labor and stopping environmental damage like deforestation, the efforts of companies and governments are having very little influence, according to the Cocoa Barometer 2018.

This report was written by a group of 15 organizations including Solidaridad, an international civil society organization that facilitates the development of socially responsible, ecologically sound and profitable supply chains.

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Nick Weatherill, Executive Director of ICI, explains how reaching a greater proportion of the 2.1 million children currently estimated to be working in child labor in the Ivory Coast and Ghana will require the continued commitment and engagement of all parties: industry, producing governments, civil society, development donors, farming communities and chocolate consumers.

“ICI will continue to serve as a platform that unites the forces of these different stakeholders, focusing collective attention on those good practices that need to be scaled up,” he says. “ICI does not aim to be in all cocoa communities covering all the needs, but rather to test models that work, and advise and advocate for them to be applied and scaled-up.”

“By 2020, ICI expects to have reached 375,000 children directly with improved supply-chain vigilance and strengthened child labor prevention in communities, and at least another 625,000 indirectly by positively influencing the actions of other actors so that they do more to protect children.”

He says that over the next three years,  ICI will specifically focus on learning from its operational experience, as well as from the experience of other experts, to adapt its models so that they are easier to scale up.

“ICI will advocate and advise for the governments of CDI and Ghana to continue improving access to education, vocational training and social protection for at-risk children in cocoa-growing areas, as pillars of prevention. ICI will concurrently advocate for and support the expansion of corporate due diligence mechanisms in the cocoa supply chains so that the risk of child labor is better managed and addressed. If progress is made on tackling root causes through prevention, then the scale-up of risk management will not need to be so dramatic.”

“To reach the required scale, all parties will need to do more. Governments will need to invest more of the tax revenues derived from cocoa exports back into those communities that grow cocoa. And more companies from more segments of the cocoa sector will need to join the effort.”Click to Enlarge

He adds that currently, companies demonstrating a real commitment to the issue by joining and supporting ICI account for roughly 70 percent of cocoa trade & processing, 50 percent of chocolate manufacturing and less than 5 percent of chocolate retail. 

“We, therefore, urge those companies not currently represented in the ICI membership to add their weight and influence to the strong engagement of our existing members by joining ICI so that together we can expand and accelerate progress.”

What's next? 
The data shows that child labor is concentrated in 60 percent of households and ICI will try to identify and selectively target CLMRS only at those specific households which are most at-risk of child labor. 

CLMRS, which currently targets all households, would, therefore, be lighter to implement. 

ICI’s data also shows that the level of women’s education correlates strongly with a reduced child labor risk, suggesting that a priority emphasis on improving girls’ education could be the most cost-effective way of reducing child labor over the long-term. 

“If we test, prove and apply these theories not only to our own fieldwork but also to our dialogue and collaboration with other actors in the cocoa sector, including the national governments, we can expect to see even more progress over the coming years,” Weatherill states.

Celebrated each year on June 12, the World Day against Child Labor is observed by the International Labour Organization, other UN bodies, governments, trade unions and civil society to bring attention to the global issue of child labor, and the action needed to eliminate it. 

ICI is launching its Annual Report today, highlighting the Foundation’s key achievements in child protection and its role as a driver of learning and capacity-building in the cocoa supply-chain to address its most complex sustainability challenge.

By Gaynor Selby 

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