What is Fairtrade Doing about Child Labour?

21 April 2011


Fairtrade prohibits child labour as defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) minimum age and the worst forms of child labour conventions. No person or product certification system can, however, provide a 100% guarantee that a product is free of child labour. 

What Fairtrade guarantees is that if we find breaches in the child labour standard, we take immediate action to protect children. We prevent the impacted farms using child labour from entering the Fairtrade system, and support them and their communities to tackle the problem. Fairtrade has chosen to work in products and regions with known risk of child labour because this is where our work is most needed.

Fairtrade is committed to fighting the root causes of child labour and proactively preventing abuse and exploitation of children. We seek the advice and guidance from expert international non-governmental organizations to ensure the rights of children are upheld, including their right to live in a safe and protective environment. 

We are working with Fairtrade producer communities to support a community based, child sensitive approach to identifying, remediating and preventing child labour.  We are also supporting them to form partnerships with child rights NGOs so that boys and girls in producer communities are agents of change and can help build more protective environments.

In the past two years, Fairtrade International (FLO) has focused on strengthening our work to protect children. Here are some of the highlights:

  • We hired a full time staff member to work on child labour and related issues.
  • We gave introductory child labor and child protection training to our field officers in North, East and West Africa, Middle East, South and Central America, the Caribbean and Asia.
  • We gave introductory child labour and child protection training to all Fairtrade cocoa producer organizations in Cote d’Ivoire, and offered child rights guidelines to community-based labor monitors in Ghana’s Fairtrade cocoa cooperative on interviewing children. We attended the launch of Kuapa Kokoo farmer cooperative’s child labour program in Ghana in November 2010.
  • We are building partnerships with expert organizations. Our West African producer services team met with representatives from the Ghana offices of ILO, Ministry of Employment and Manpower and local based NGOs to discuss possible joint program partnerships. We are developing a partnership with a leading child rights NGO for joint program development and guidance.
  • We briefed government officials in the US and EU on our approach to child labor elimination and our plans for producer support to increase wellbeing of children and youth in Fairtrade cocoa producing communities. We provided input to the US Government Cocoa Oversight Body, Tulane University, on assessments of our approach to addressing child labour issues in the West African sector.
  • We have sought feedback from experts and Fairtrade partners and received their recommendations for developing a rights-based strategy and framework of action for eliminating child labor in West Africa cocoa production, through hosting a stakeholder forum in Bonn in July 2010 and at a producer-facilitated forum in Ghana in March with producer representatives from Ghana and Cameroon. We will also meet with Ivorian producers to get their feedback and recommendations when the situation in Cote d’Ivoire eases.
  • With the support of Kuapa Kokoo and PLAN Canada, we held focus groups with 48 school children in cocoa growing communities in western Ghana to learn about their education, work, future aspirations and the impact of Fairtrade on their well being. (Similar focus groups occurred in Asia.)
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