Fairtrade to support Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa co-ops tackle child labour and forced labour

‘We know we can accelerate positive change that benefits everyone’

Fairtrade International and Fairtrade Africa have announced a new scheme to help certified Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa co-operatives strengthen the prevention and remediation of child labour and forced labour.

The new Fairtrade Child Labour and Forced Labour Prevention and Remediation Programme comes in response to a 2020 report by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center, which found that more than 1.5 million children aged five to 17 were working on cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana in 2018/2019.

“There has been a great deal of attention paid to monitoring and finding child labour cases in the cocoa sector in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana especially, which is necessary but not sufficient to really get at the root of the problem,” said Edward Akapire, the director of Fairtrade Africa’s West Africa Network. “With this new programme, Fairtrade aims to support producer organisations to invest in prevention – such as improving education – as well as remediation of detected cases, which means connecting children and families with resources so they can thrive, rather than driving harmful practices further underground.”

The Fairtrade Standards already prohibit exploitative child labour, and the certifier FLOCERT regularly monitors compliance on site. However, according to Fairtrade International, “no certification system can provide a 100% guarantee that a product is free of child labour”. The organisation added that even though many co-operatives now have a monitoring and remediation system in place, they may lack the resources to tackle more expensive prevention and remediation measures.

A total of €450,000 (£386,000) has been allocated for the new scheme with the support of Fairtrade Germany, Fairtrade Austria and Fairtrade Max Havelaar Switzerland and other Fairtrade organisations. More funding could be allocated to the initiative following additional contributions.

From 1 July Fairtrade International will also be introducing a new requirement in the Fairtrade Standard for Cocoa, which calls on cocoa exporters, importers, manufacturers, brands and retailers in Fairtrade cocoa supply chains to support producer organisations to address and remediate child labour and forced labour. The requirement will apply to supply chains that originate in high-risk regions, including Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Companies that buy cocoa on mass balance terms, will be able to contribute to the programme to fulfil the Fairtrade Standards support requirement.

Funding will be allocated to proposals based on cooperatives’ experiences and priorities. Project ideas could include prevention activities such as improving access to quality education for children, and income-generating activities that address household poverty.

Fairtrade expects the programme to finance approximately 10 proposals in the first year. The organisation will be monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of interventions and sharing lessons learned will be part of all funded projects. A management committee has also been formed to provide expertise and the latest knowledge on best practices. The committee includes Matthias Lange, executive director of the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), an organisation dedicated to eliminating child labour in the cocoa sector and a key project collaborator.

“We recognise that the programme cannot cover all the needs for investment in prevention and remediation activities,” emphasised Jon Walker, senior cocoa advisor for Fairtrade International. “However, it will help some co-operatives 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 co-operatives, we know we can accelerate positive change that benefits everyone.”