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Child Labor in the Production of Cocoa

Child holding cocoa pod

Over the past two decades, research has drawn increased attention to the problem of child and forced child labor in the production of cocoa.


Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, together, produce the majority of the world's cocoa, supplying over 58% of the world's cocoa each year. Research funded by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) shows that over 1.75 million children worked on cocoa farms in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana in 2008-2009. Working on cocoa farms can be hazardous, particularly for children, whose physical, mental, and psychological capacities are still developing. Children working in cocoa may work long hours, carry heavy loads, and use dangerous tools. Children may also be involved in spraying cocoa trees with pesticides or burning fields to clear them. The USDOL-funded research found that over half of the children working on cocoa farms have been injured in work-related activities.

In response to this situation, in 2001, representatives from the International Chocolate and Cocoa Industry signed a protocol, known as the Harkin-Engel Protocol. This protocol included commitments by the industry to publicly acknowledge child labor in the cocoa sector, form an advisory group to advise on appropriate remedies, and establish a joint foundation to address child labor in the cocoa sector.

In September 2010, with nine years of lessons learned under the Harkin-Engel Protocol, the Governments of Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, USDOL, and the International Chocolate and Cocoa Industry joined as partners to sign the Declaration of Joint Action to Support Implementation of the Harkin-Engel Protocol. Senator Tom Harkin, Representative Eliot Engel, and the International Labor Organization witnessed the signing. The Declaration commits the partners to take steps to reduce child labor in the production of cocoa. Accompanying the Declaration is the The Framework of Action to Support the Implementation of the Harkin-Engel Protocol, which lays out the activities needed to achieve the goals of the Harkin-Engel Protocol.

The Child Labor Cocoa Coordinating Group (CLCCG) was put in place to coordinate efforts between the partners working under the Declaration and Framework of Action. The CLCCG aims to ensure that projects and resources are coordinated and address priority needs. More information on the Declaration and Framework of Action, the CLCCG, and the efforts taken by the Governments of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, USDOL, and Industry are found below.

Current Efforts to Combat Child Labor in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire's Cocoa Sector

  • The Declaration of Joint Action to Support Implementation of the Harkin-Engel Protocol and Its Framework of Action
  • In September 2010, the Government of Côte d'Ivoire, the Government of Ghana, Senator Tom Harkin, Representative Eliot Engel, the United States Department of Labor (USDOL), and the International Chocolate and Cocoa Industry joined as partners to tackle the pressing problem of child labor in the cocoa sector.

    Under this joint initiative, the partners listed above signed the Declaration of Joint Action to Support Implementation of the Harkin-Engel Protocol and the accompanying Framework of Action to Support the Implementation of the Harkin-Engel Protocol . Under the Declaration and Framework of Action, these partners committed to the goal of reducing the worst forms of child labor in the cocoa sectors in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana by 70% by the year 2020.

    Under the Declaration, USDOL committed $10 million and Industry committed $7 million, with the possibility of an additional $3 million to further the goals laid out in the Declaration. The Governments of Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana committed to providing sufficient human and financial resources to support these efforts.

    The Framework of Action was developed to support implementation of the Declaration and achievement of the goals laid out in the Harkin-Engel Protocol. It calls for actions to support Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana's National Plans of Action to eliminate child labor. The Framework of Action's main goals are to:

    • Remove children from the worst forms of child labor, such as hazardous labor, through activities including educational or vocational training and the removal of workplace hazards;
    • Prevent the worst forms of child labor through increased access to schooling and vocational training and improvements to the quality and relevance of education;
    • Promote sustainable livelihoods for the households of children in cocoa growing areas,
    • Establish and implement community-based child labor monitoring systems in cocoa growing areas, linked to providing remediation services to children-in-need; and
    • Measure the worst forms of child labor and the impact of the initiatives of the partners aimed at addressing them through regular national child labor surveys.
  • Child Labor Cocoa Coordinating Group and Annual Reporting
  • In order to support the effective implementation of the Framework of Action, the Governments of Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, Senator Harkin's Office, Congressman Engel's Office, the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL), and the International Chocolate and Cocoa Industry formed the Child Labor Cocoa Coordinating Group (CLCCG). The CLCCG serves as a coordination mechanism for the Framework of Action, helping link new resources committed under the Declaration to priority needs in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. The CLCCG is guided by the By-laws for Governance of the Child Labor Cocoa Coordinating Group, which lays out the purpose, areas of activities, and laws governing the CLCCG.

    Among the goals of the Framework of Action is to track the commitment of new resources under the Declaration and improve coordination of these resources. In order to achieve these goals the CLCCG developed a system for assessing whether proposals submitted by Industry represented new commitments of resources and whether the proposals were consistent with the Framework of Action's goals. For more details on the criteria, please see the Criteria for Assessing whether New Programming Should Count Toward Industry Commitment.

    As called for under the Framework of Action, the CLCCG holds annual Stakeholder Briefings and releases Annual Reports covering progress made over the previous year by partners toward meeting the goals of the Declaration. Below are links to the Annual Reports and Stakeholder Briefings presented to date:

  • Research Targeting Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector
  • In 2006 and 2009, the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) provided funding to Tulane University's Payson Center for International Development to conduct oversight of government and private industry efforts to develop and implement mechanisms to eliminate child labor in the cocoa sectors of Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. As a result of this work, Tulane produced three annual reports and one final report verifying progress made towards the implementation of the Harkin-Engel Protocol.

    With this USDOL funding, Tulane University also conducted nationally representative child labor surveys of cocoa-growing regions in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana.  Data collection for this research took place during the 2006-2007 and the 2008-2009 growing seasons. USDOL commissioned the research to assess the nature and prevalence of child labor in cocoa growing areas. Tulane's research and oversight resulted in the following reports:

    • First Annual Report: Oversight of Public and Private Initiatives to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. October 2007.
    • Second Annual Report: Oversight of Public and Private Initiatives to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. October 2008.
    • Third Annual Report: Oversight of Public and Private Initiatives to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. October 2009.
    • Fourth Annual Report: Oversight of Public and Private Initiatives to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. September 30, 2010
    • Final Report on the Status of Public and Private Efforts to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor (WFCL) in the Cocoa Sectors of Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. March 31, 2011.

    In 2012, USDOL funded a new cooperative agreement with Tulane to:

    • Develop population estimates for the prevalence of children working in the worst forms of child labor in the cocoa growing areas of Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana based on data collected during the 2008-2009 growing season;
    • Carry out a new nationally representative survey of cocoa growing areas in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana to assess the prevalence of the worst forms of child labor in agriculture, including the cocoa sector, in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana during the 2013-2014 harvest season;
    • Use the information collected to measure percent changes in the prevalence of the worst forms of child labor in agriculture, including the cocoa sector, in the two countries between the 2008-2009 and 2013-2014 harvest seasons and publish reports detailing Tulane's research methodology and findings;
    • Develop and submit a detailed step-by-step survey implementation and data analysis manual to allow for the replication of research design and reporting on findings; and
    • Prepare and publish data dictionaries and public-use data files
    • Provide training and support to national survey bodies in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana in order to enhance their ability to carry out similar surveys in the future.
  • Projects Targeting Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector
  • Under the Declaration, the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) committed $10 million and International Chocolate and Cocoa Industry committed $7 million, with the possibility of an additional $3 million to further the goals laid out in the Declaration. The Governments of Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana committed to providing sufficient human and financial resources to support these efforts. Since the signing of the Declaration, USDOL and the Industry have both met their original monetary commitment under the Framework.

    Information on funding towards the remediation initiatives identified by the Framework of Action is found here.

  • Other USDOL Efforts Targeting Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector
  • Projects

    Prior to its work under the Declaration of Joint Action to Support Implementation of the Harkin-Engel Protocol, the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) funded several projects to combat child labor in the cocoa sector in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. Information on these projects is below:

    Research

    USDOL is congressionally mandated to conduct research and produce three reports on the situation of child labor. The three reports are outlined below.

    • The Department of Labor's annual Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor focuses on the efforts of 144 U.S. trade beneficiary countries and territories to eliminate the worst forms of child labor through legislation, enforcement mechanisms, policies and social programs. The report presents:
    • Findings on the prevalence and sectoral distribution of the worst forms of child labor in each country.
    • Country-specific suggestions for government action (since 2010).
    • Individual country assessments that identify where Significant, Moderate, Minimal, or No Advancement has been made (since 2011).

    The Report serves as a resource to foreign governments, NGOs, academics and policymakers working on labor and human rights issues. It helps inform Congress and Executive Branch agencies that formulate labor and trade policy and is an important resource for the Department in assessing future technical assistance and research priorities as it seeks to combat child labor around the world. See the most recent reports on Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana.

    • The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2005 mandates, among other things, that USDOL "carry out additional activities to monitor and combat forced labor and child labor in foreign countries."  Through this mandate, USDOL develops and makes available to the public a list of goods from countries that USDOL has reason to believe are produced by forced labor or child labor in violation of international standards. Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana are both listed on the TVPRA for the use of child labor in the cocoa sector, and Côte d'Ivoire is listed for the use of forced child labor in the cocoa sector. 
    • Under Executive Order (EO) 13126 ("Prohibition of Acquisition of Products Produced by Forced or Indentured Child Labor"), USDOL publishes an annual list of goods that are known to be made by forced or indentured child labor.  EO 13126 is intended to ensure that U.S. federal agencies do not procure goods made by forced or indentured child labor. That goal is consistent with current laws that, among other things, outlaw the importation of products made by forced or indentured child labor. Côte d'Ivoire is listed on this list for the use of forced child labor in the cocoa and coffee sectors.