Cocoa-growing communities, supply chains and national authorities should find ways of working better together to bring lasting improvements to the lives of smallholder farmers, according to the International Cocoa Initiative.
The leading organisation on child protection in cocoa growing held its annual event in Ghana on 9 November, urging for more coordination between disparate groups in the context of the ever prevalent risk of child labour in cocoa.
Held under the auspices of the Ghana’s Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, the event brought together more than 100 participants from the governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, workers’ and farmers’ organizations, the chocolate and cocoa industry, the UN, the EU, children’s rights groups, civil society organisations, media and other influencers and decision makers.
According to Ghana’s Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Hon. Haruna Iddrisu, “despite the recent progress made in Ghana to reduce the overall number of child labourers in cocoa, much more commitment and collaborative effort is required in order to sustain the support and interventions for the collective good of our children.”
Earlier this year a Tulane University Study commissioned by the US Department of Labour reported that there are currently 2.1 million children engaged in child labour in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
The ICI meeting tackled two major themes: improving and expanding a Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS); and bridging gaps to improve children’s access to quality education.
At a panel discussion with experts from government, certifiers, ILO, and the cocoa industry, Jeff Morgan, Copresident of ICI and representative of Mars Global Chocolate on the ICI Board, said that remediation work, when applied within a monitoring system, represents an emerging good practice in ICI’s work because it brings the issue to the surface and makes it easier to be identified and addressed. “Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation is something that we would like to see scaled up, as it gives us the ability to connect to each and every farm more regularly.”
Gaps in school infrastructure and the deployment of trained teachers to rural areas were some of the challenges identified on a panel looking at the obstacles to ensuring quality education in cocoa-growing areas.
Participants proposed concrete solutions for all the various challenges and identified the different actors who could work together towards implementing those actions.
“Despite the progress we see each day on the ground in the communities we work, the end result has so far been no greater than the sum of its individual parts,” said Nick Weatherill, ICI’s Executive Director. “But now I believe that we’re at a turning point. We probably have more energy and engagement from all the people that matter, on cocoa sustainability, on social development and on children’s rights, than at any time before. I’m convinced we can turn the cocoa sector from a missed opportunity, into a game-changer for child protection and farmer prosperity.”