New Report on Cocoa & Child Labor Shows Problems

The report is very long and in-depth and is definitely worth the read if you have time.  However, I'm assuming that the majority of our blog readers are not exactly jumping at the opportunity to read an almost 500-page report on child labor, so here are some highlights. 

These are some of the key issues that stood out to me:

  1. One of the controversial areas has been how the chocolate industry defines "certification."  The Protocol called for chocolate companies to develop a certification system to ensure that their products are not made using the worst forms of child labor, but the agreement did not elaborate on what the certification system should look like.  In Tulane's first report, they called the industry's "certification" a misnomer and in this year's report they write that "a large gap remains between the core features of a 'certification system' -- standards, measurable objectives, targets and indicators -- and the activities currently in place" (p. 24).  As ILRF has argued along with many other organizations, the industry definition of "certification" is highly problematic.  The Tulane report calls for increased resources for remediation efforts to effectively remove children for harmful work.
  2. The report also includes information on trafficking in the cocoa industry through interviewed conducted in Mali and Burkina Faso.  The children interviews by the Tulane team started working on cocoa farms when they were as young as 10 and did not know what kind of work they would be doing on the farms when they were trafficked.  The shortest working day reported was 9 hours a day and all of the children reported being verbally abused and some experienced physical abuse.  Unfortunately, there appears to be very little investment on behalf of chocolate companies to fund programs in countries like Mali and Burkina Faso and to focus specifically on the issue of trafficking (that's been an ILRF demand for years now).  This section of the report (p. 77-81) is the start of a larger research project for Tulane which will look further at the issue of trafficking.
  3. In the years since the worst forms of child labor were revealed in the cocoa industry in 2001, the big chocolate companies have tauted their charitable programs in the region as a response to labor rights abuses.  However, the Tulane report found that only 1.7% of children they interviewed in Cote d'Ivoire and only 5.2% of children interviewed in Ghana reported to have benefited from a project funded by companies or international organizations -- and "project" was broadly defined and does not necessarily mean a program directly aimed at helping child workers.  While years have gone by and millions of dollars have reported to have been spent on this issue, the number of children who report benefiting from this funding is shockingly low.

The report also includes a lot more interesting information from new interviews the Tulane team conducted with thousands of people in Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana.

To see the response to the report from Senator Harkin and Representative Engel, check out their press release here.

While the Tulane report did show some progress on reducing the worst forms of child labor in the cocoa industry in West Africa, it is clear that there is still a lot of work to do even after all of the pressure put on chocolate companies for the last 7 years.  The continuing existence of abusive child labor was confirmed again for us recently when we talked to an ally of ours who was on the Mali-Cote d'Ivoire border weeks ago and talked to a number of transport workers, traffickers and children about the continuing trafficking of children to work on cocoa farms.  ILRF will continue to watch closely and advocates for stronger action to support labor rights in the cocoa industry.




re: New Report on Cocoa & Child Labor Shows Problems

Ayo-Lawal: Thank YOU for reading this and for your excellent question. I just searched through the report and there is actually no mention of Nigeria in the text written by the Tulane team (as far as I can tell) although there are a few small references to Nigeria in the appendices of the report.

The actual text of the original 2001 Harkin-Engel Protocol only references "West Africa" as a region and does not single out any specific countries to focus on. My understanding is that Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana have received the most attention because they are the larger cocoa producers and the problem of the worst forms of child labor in the cocoa sector in those two countries is greater. However, this should definitely be approached in a regional and a broader political-economic context.

The appendices of the report note that there are two projects operating in Nigeria: Farmer Field Schools/STCP Pilot Project and Cargill Farmer Quality Training Program.

On another note, you might be interested in this recent article on child labor in the cocoa industry that appeared in the Nigerian newspaper "This Day":

If anyone knows any more information on child labor and the cocoa industry in Nigeria, please do let us know in the comments section! And again, the full report is available online here: