Fighting to End Forced Child Labor
and Child Trafficking in the Cocoa IndustryAs of 2014, over 2.12 million children were working on cocoa farms or plantations. Tens of thousands of them were illegally trafficked and sold into child slavery. Even today, children are forced to work long hours in dangerous conditions with little or no pay for their work. 70% of the world’s cocoa comes from Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, where these children are forced to work in the fields. A handful of western corporations control almost all of the cocoa exports from the West Coast of Africa. All major chocolate companies buy from producers that use child labor.
Read a report from former PJC fair trade intern Karuna Jobanputra: Cocoa Production in West Africa: Environmental Impacts, Worst forms of Child Labor, Price and Certification
Read report here. Cocoa Production in West Africa
The Problem: Human Trafficking and the Worst Forms of Child Labor in the Cocoa Industry
In 2000, media reports of findings of child labor and child trafficking in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana shed light on the cocoa industry’s biggest secret. Africa’s west coast cocoa plantations produce over 70% of the world’s chocolate. To reduce production costs, the producers employ the use of child laborers—often against their will. These children are frequently forced to work long hours in hazardous conditions without pay. When media outlets reported these Worst Forms of Child Labor, NGO’s and organizations around the globe made a call for action to end child labor in the cocoa sector. Chocolate companies worldwide scrambled and made attempts to refute the claims. Eventually the industry acknowledged “unsatisfactory” conditions in cocoa fields and negotiations between representatives of the industry, US Senators Harkin and Kohl, US Representative Engel, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and civil society organizations began. Read more about the history of child rights, child labor, and the Harkin-Engel Protocol.
The Proposed Solution: The Harkin-Engel Protocol
The Chocolate Manufacturers Association, the World Cocoa Foundation, US Senators Harkin and Kohl, US Representative Engel, the Ambassador of Cote d’Ivoire, Industry, the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC), the International Labor Organization (ILO), major United States unions, and anti-labor exploitation and child’s rights NGOs with support from 8 major U.S. chocolate and cocoa companies voluntarily signed the protocol in September of 2001. The Harkin-Engel Protocol called for action from the chocolate and cocoa industry to put an end to exploitative child labor by 2005. It also included a commitment to develop voluntary and industry-wide standards of public certification that cocoa beans had been grown and processed without the use of child labor.
Reality: Slow Progress and Extensions
In a joint statement released in 2005, it was announced that the 2005 deadline would not be met, but “some positive steps have been taken to address the worst forms of child labor in cocoa growing.” Senator Harkin and Representative Engel expressed their discontent with the missed deadline, but reassured that the cocoa industry would not be let off the hook. The extension demanded that $5 million be dedicated annually by the industry to support the implementation of the certification system and that the certification system would be in place for 50% of the cocoa-growing areas in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. In 2008, another extension was granted to allow the industry more time to meet the goals of the protocol.
Independent Verification: The Payson Center for International Development and Technology Transfer at Tulane University
In 2006, the US Department of Labor contracted Tulane University to independently assess the progress of the Harkin-Engel Protocol in eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labor in the cocoa industry. Tulane released a series of reports in 2007, 2008, and 2009 tracking the slow, but steady progress of the protocol. In their final report, released in 2011, they concluded that there has been some progress in reducing the prevalence of child labor on cocoa plantations, but numerous articles of the protocol have yet to be satisfied by the cocoa industry.
A Ranking of Chocolate Companies From Good to Bad:
Fair Trade Chocolate Brands to Try: