Players in the chocolate industry have been asked to increase efforts to help eliminate child labour in cocoa producing regions, especially Ghana and Cóte d’Ivoire.
The call comes after the annual Chocolate Scorecard found that about 1.56 million children were still involved in child labour in the production and supply chains in West Africa, where 75 per cent of the world’s cocoa was produced.
The report noted that: While there had been improvements in many areas since last year’s survey, there was still a long way to go in addressing the issue of approximately 1.56 million children caught up in child labour.
Much of the child labour found in West Africa is the hazardous form, where a child is in danger through such things as carrying heavy loads, using dangerous equipment such as machetes, or being exposed to chemicals, the report added.
Commenting on the report, Mr Fuzz Kitto, Co-Director of Be Slavery Free – Coalition of Civil Society Organisations in combating modern slavery, agreed that not much had been done by industry players to save children from modern day slavery.
He said: Every year the chocolate industry’s big players assure us that they’ll do something about child labour and the huge numbers of children being exposed to chemicals that burn their skin and affect their breathing. We say that progress is too slow, and they have to stop poisoning children to produce chocolate.î
If companies started paying farmers properly, so they can get a living income, there would be fewer children forced to work in cocoa production and fewer farmers cutting corners with dangerous pesticides, he added.
The findings corroborated a similar one by the International Cocoa Initiative and the Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat/ Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The report also noted that many child workers carried very heavy loads, use dangerous tools (i.e., machetes) or handle chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which posed genuine physical harm to them.
Also, the National Opinion Research Centre, US Department of Labour Bureau of International Labor Affairs, during the 2018-19 cocoa harvest season, observed similar child labour practices in cocoa growing regions.
The NORC report observed that in agricultural households in cocoa growing areas, 38 per cent of children in Cóte d’Ivoire and 55 percent of children in Ghana were engaged in child labour in cocoa production.
In addition, 37 per cent of children in Cóte d’Ivoire and 51 per cent of children in Ghana were engaged in hazardous child labour in cocoa production.
On progress made, school attendance among children in agricultural households in cocoa growing areas increased from 58 to 80 per cent in Cóte d’Ivoire and from 89 to 96 per cent in Ghana between 2008-09 and 2018-19.
Meanwhile, Mr Bright Wireko-Brobby, Deputy Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, reiterated the Government’s commitment to eliminating all forms of child labour in the country.
Speaking at a stakeholders engagement in Accra to review Ghana’s Hazardous Activities Framework earlier, he said: We’re particularly interested in the business of finding possible ways towards the elimination of child labour.
By Morkporkpor Anku, GNA