12 Jun 2024

Child labour can be tackled one step, one programme, at a time

2022 03 ECAMOM Cote d Ivoire cropped
Mohamed Aly Diabate / Fairtrade / Fairpicture

About 1.5 million children work on cocoa plantations in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana where two-thirds of the world’s cocoa is produced, according to a study by NORC at the University of Chicago.

Fairtrade understands that poverty is one of the root causes of child labour, and while we cannot solve this endemic problem we are taking steps to make a difference, including supporting initiatives that strengthen children’s rights and end harmful practices such as our Child Labour and Forced Labour Prevention and Remediation Programme.

The programme, launched in 2023, is beginning to take form. This summer four small-scale producer organisations - CANN Cooperative, DAVO Cooperative, SOCAMEA Cooperative in Côte d'Ivoire, and ABOCFA Cooperative in Ghana - will receive more than €80,000 in funding that will allow them to start implementing projects in their local communities. These are the first small-scale producer organisations whose proposals will be funded.

The CANN Cooperative and DAVO Cooperative will focus on school refurbishment, in particular they will use the funds to construct new classrooms for the local children. The DAVO Cooperative will add toilets, solar panels, and a borehole that will supply the school with clean drinking water.

The SOCAMEA Cooperative will provide children in their local communities with bicycles to help them attend school. In some cases, children live far away and therefore without adequate transportation, attending school is often impossible. They will purchase 120 bicycles and helmets and build a bicycle garage for storage.

And in Ghana, the ABOCFA Cooperative will renovate and add on to the current primary school. They will use the funding to help physically challenged children into their schools by providing them with educational materials and helping to access health care. Moreover, they will also work on training and awareness raising when it comes to child labour.

The programme through these initiatives also provides cocoa exporters, importers, manufacturers, brands, and retailers in Fairtrade cocoa supply chains with a way to support producer organisations to address and remediate child labour and forced labour, a requirement in the updated Fairtrade Cocoa Standard.

The requirement, which took effect on 1 July 2023, applies to supply chains that originate in regions with well evidenced risk of child labour, including Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Companies that buy cocoa on mass balance terms, meaning the cocoa can be mixed for manufacturing purposes after it is exported, can contribute to the programme to fulfil the Fairtrade Standards trader support requirement, despite not having a direct link to specific cooperatives. Companies can also be confident that their contribution will support cocoa cooperatives in the region from which they source.

The Child Labour and Forced Labour Prevention and Remediation Programme has received over of €500,000 in funding from Fairtrade Germany, Fairtrade Austria, Fairtrade Canada, Fairtrade Max Havelaar Switzerland, other Fairtrade organisations and commercial partners, and will be expanded with additional contributions.

Fairtrade Standards strictly prohibit child labour, and compliance is regularly monitored by FLOCERT, Fairtrade’s independent certifier. Still, no certification system can guarantee that a product is free of child labour. Many cooperatives have a monitoring and remediation system in place, but many lack the resources to tackle more expensive prevention and remediation measures. And that’s where funded programme’s such as Fairtrade’s help make a difference.

Fairtrade recognises this programme cannot cover all the needs for investment in prevention and remediation activities, however step by step we can help cooperatives to fund projects that they consider most urgent on the way to eliminating child and forced labour and providing valuable learnings for possible scale-up. With the combination of this programme and the requirement for all supply chain actors to support cooperatives, we know we can accelerate positive change that benefits everyone.

Fairtrade is committed to fighting the root causes of child labour and forced labour, and promoting the rights of children. We take a holistic approach, drawing on three main mechanisms. They include robust certification standards that set out the rules on child labour but also support farmers to address root causes. Fairtrade Prices and Premium that enable more stability and higher incomes for farming households and the option to start investing in community benefits such as schools. In addition to the mandatory Fairtrade Minimum Price and Premium, we also have Living Income Reference Prices that companies can choose to pay on top.

For more info on how Fairtrade tackles child labour, click here.