Bittersweet Reality: Child Labor in Cocoa Industry

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via Fair Trade Certified ™ Blog by Katie on 9/14/10

The news on cocoa this week has been somewhat bittersweet. Yesterday, the U.S. government and the chocolate industry pledged $17 million to help end child labor - some of it forced and dangerous - in two African countries where much of the world's cocoa is grown, the Ivory Coast and Ghana.wide-slavery_1_krtwide_photoprod_affiliate91
Why is this news bittersweet?
While we welcome the attention to this issue, the reality is that not enough has been done to combat the worst forms of child labor.  It's an unacceptable fact that children around the world are employed and exploited, forced to work in abusive and dangerous conditions, when they should be at school or on playgrounds. Children are bought, sold and traded within and across national borders.  Those who live in abject poverty are especially vulnerable.
  • An estimated 218 million children are involved in work around the world.
  • 126 million work under the worst forms of child labor.
  • More than one million children are employed in the cocoa farming sector in West Africa.
  • Between 200,000 and 800,000 children under the age of 18 are trafficked each year in West Africa alone.
"If there's one thing people around the world share in common it's our love of chocolate. But it is a bitter reality that the main ingredient in chocolate, cocoa, is produced largely by child labor." - Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, at a signing ceremony for a new agreement between industry, the Department of Labor, the Ivory Coast and Ghana.
TransFair USA and Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International are aware and concerned about the continued vast scale of child labor and child trafficking.  We believe everyone has the responsibility to work to eradicate child labor:  governments, NGOs, UN bodies, trade unions, child-welfare organizations, chocolate manufacturers and traders, farmers' groups and consumers.  We take our own responsibility very seriously and believe there is still much to be done within Fair Trade and continously work to strengthen our system regarding this issue.
Fair Trade Can Help
Fair Trade is committed to combating child labor.
  • Fair Trade guarantees standards that prohibit child labor.
  • Fair Trade guarantees a rigorous certification and audit system designed to detect cases of child labor
  • Fair Trade guarantees that we act immediately when cases are found to protect the children involved and secure their safety.
  • Fair Trade guarantees that farmers receive additional premiums that they can use to improve life in their own communities, and to develop their own programs
At present, no one person or system can provide a 100 percent guarantee that chocolate is free of child labor. What the Fair Trade system guarantees is that if we find breaches of our standards, we will take immediate action. We will act to protect children. We will act to prevent cocoa from farms proved to be using child labor from entering the Fair Trade system. And we will act to support farming communities in tackling problems so that they can continue to trade their way out of poverty.
Want to Learn More?
FLO's Position Paper on Child Labor
Fact Sheet on Child Labor
Standards for small-scale producers
Producer standards for hired labor

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