Cargill joins cocoa industry in fighting child labour

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Child labour, Côte d'ivoire, Ghana, Africa, Cocoa

Food giant Cargill has committed itself to improving cocoa growing
and production practices, including the eradication of child
labour.

The company says that it is committed to working towards the elimination of abusive or enforced child labour in cocoa production.

This is an entrenched problem within many cocoa-growing countries.

Nearly 70 per cent of the world's cocoa production originates from West Africa with Cote d'Ivoire alone accounting for 40 per cent. An estimated 10 million people in West Africa are supported by over 1.2 million independent family cocoa farms.

Cocoa is produced primarily by independent family farm with family members providing the farm labour. Children have traditionally worked as part of the family unit on these farms.

In 2002, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) completed a survey to determine the extent of child labour in the cocoa sector. The survey found that family labour was the primary source of labour in the West African cocoa sector.

The majority of children working on cocoa farms were found to be working on their own family's farm, with typical dangerous situations including the handling of sharp machetes and exposure to pesticides.

The survey also found that these children were hampered by a general lack of educational opportunity. Of those surveyed, roughly 4 per cent of children working on cocoa farms had no family ties to the farmers, and the survey found that these children were more at risk of being exploited.

The use of child labour in cocoa is primarily a function of a farmer's income, and it is here that corporations such as Cargill can make a difference. As a processor and exporter of cocoa in Cote d'Ivoire, Cargill purchases close to 50 per cent of our cocoa beans from farmer cooperatives, to which it provides transparent information about world market prices as a direct means of increasing farm income.

In addition, although Cargill does not buy cocoa directly from farmers, the firm claims it is able to leverage its relationships with farmer cooperatives to partner on sustainable cocoa practices and child labour.

Since 2001, Cargill has been running seminars to train its suppliers to go back to their communities to teach their neighbours about sustainable cocoa practices. The seminars include a component on child labour.

Cargill also requires that all of its direct suppliers of cocoa beans in West Africa, both licensed buyers and cooperatives, sign a statement acknowledging that they understand Cargill's commitment to the elimination of abusive child labour practices in the cocoa supply chain.

Supplier contracts are subject to termination if they are found they to be employing abusive child labour practices.

Cargill is also committed to the 2001 Harkin-Engel Protocol dedicated industry to specific actions to ensure that cocoa is produced responsibly, without the use of abusive child labour.

To ensure that abusive or enforced child labour in cocoa farming is eliminated, and to help alleviate rural poverty, the protocol outlines a four-step approach:help 'at-risk' children, develop a credible 'certification' programme to improve cocoa farming labour practices, improve the well being of the farming communityand support the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) - a joint foundation between industry and non-industry stakeholders.

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