IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO PROTECT A CHILD: Tackling child labour at the roots

As Easter approaches, kids everywhere look forward to some delicious Easter chocolate. In Australia [or New Zealand] we are lucky enough to consume it in vast quantities. But in many parts of the world -- children -- who not only don’t get chocolate Easter Bunnies, but in fact, are sold, trafficked, often enslaved and always forced to grow this sublime commodity -- are paying the highest price.

In 1980, on average cocoa growers received 16% of the final price on a bar of Chocolate.  Today that has dropped to between 3.5 % and 6.5%. One of the vital things we have learned about child labour in cocoa supply chains, is that when the price of cocoa drops for the poor farmer – the amount of child labour increases.

If you think that this problem doesn’t impact your chocolate, think again. There are more than two million child labourers growing cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana alone, according to a recent study by Tulane University. This problem is real and it is widespread.

Fairtrade has been committed to fighting the causes of child labour and to preventing the abuse and exploitation of children for over 25 years. As the first organisation ever to certify cocoa back in 1994 with Green & Black’s Maya Gold chocolate; and the first to engage one of the three biggest global chocolate companies – Cadbury -- in partnering with us to transform global supply chains; we know that to really tackle child labour, it’s essential to get to the root of the problem. 

Certification is an important tool to combat child labour. The Fairtrade Standards prohibit child labour, and we have expert, trained auditors who check the farms with unannounced audits continuously. But monitoring isn’t enough either. And the very poor and remote cocoa-growing communities with high risk of child labour, are exactly the ones that need change most. 

The goal to eliminate child labour should not only lie with Fairtrade’s inspectors – if the farmers themselves want to ban the practice, then we’ll be far more successful. But if this is to happen, farmers must be able to survive without it, have the capacity to ensure their kids are safely in school, and be paid a fair price for the cocoa. 

Our vision is that farming communities can be leaders in tackling child labour in their own locale. And that children and young people themselves can be leaders within their communities.

For over two years now, we at Fairtrade have been piloting an approach for communities to tackle child labour in their own communities. To build this approach, we conducted focus-groups with more than 600 school-going girls and boys in and around Fairtrade producer organisations. They told us what is important to them, and what makes for a good and safe environment at home, at school and in their communities. These views and experiences help us to target programmes that are relevant to children’s needs and ensure we act to protect at-risk children and youth.

Fairtrade’s proactive approach to child labour doesn’t wait for the auditor to find it.  We run trainings on child and/or forced labour for our certified producer organisations, including child protection and how to build a self-governing system for continuous monitoring and response. These organisations are selected for training based on risk, including from Fairtrade audit findings or global indexes (such as the US Department of Labor List for Child and Forced Labor, the Maplecroft Index, and the US Trafficking in Persons Reports. In 2015 in Latin America alone, the Fairtrade producer network trained 137 small producer organisations on child labour and 19 on forced labour elimination. There are Pilots running in three cocoa-growing cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire presently; and as our long history demonstrates, we will implement those innovations that come from our groundbreaking work.  

But we can’t do it alone. It does take the global village to protect children. We need the cocoa communities, our companies, governments, NGO partners other certifiers and all who are willing to work together to make trade fair.

You can make this Easter a fair one by purchasing goodies for your loved ones from the exciting Fairtrade Easter range





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