On 21 September, Alliance 8.7 was launched during the UN General Assembly to end forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour. The aim is to galvanize political support and strengthen multi-stakeholder action on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8.7.
Taco Terheijden*, Director of Cocoa Sustainability at Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate, reflects on the importance of SDG 8.7 and how the new Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation System within the Cargill Cocoa Promise will strengthen its efforts to tackle child labour and forced labour in the cocoa supply chain.*
There are 168 million child labourers worldwide, with more than half working in agriculture. That’s why the new Alliance 8.7 is welcome news. It strengthens the global effort to eradicate forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour, which is a key pillar of Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
More than two-thirds of the world’s cocoa crop is grown in West Africa by subsistence, smallholder farmers working side by side with their families to produce cocoa beans. Extreme poverty, lack of educational infrastructure, and societal norms are some of the reasons we see children working on cocoa farms and being exposed to hazardous work such as carrying heavy loads, exposure to pesticides, and use of machetes. These practices are unacceptable, which is why Cargill is working to help build and strengthen communities that are protective and supportive of children and their families.
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As part of our Cargill Cocoa Promise, we are working to protect the rights of children, to raise awareness of labour issues among farming communities, and to take action to prevent children being put at risk. Over the past decade, we have focused our efforts on addressing root cause issues of child labour in cocoa-growing regions. Working with partners such as CARE, we are focusing on programs that reduce poverty among cocoa-farming households; increase access to education; and support greater opportunities for women, who play a critical role in improving children’s welfare and protecting them from harsh labour. The Cargill-CARE cocoa partnership began ten years ago, and we’re pleased to announce a further commitment of nearly $2 million USD to expand our current program in Ghana into Côte d’Ivoire over the next three years.
At Cargill, we recognize that we cannot tackle child labour in cocoa-farming communities on our own, so we are working alongside other members of the global cocoa and chocolate industries to partner with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, NGOs and local farming communities to help make a positive difference. As part of the collective framework “Cocoa Action,” we are launching the Cargill Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS).
The Cargill CLMRS model will be piloted in Côte d’Ivoire this harvest season to help us better identify and understand incidences of child labour so that we are able to target appropriate remediation activities. The pilot will also help us learn how to take a labour-monitoring system to scale in a complex, smallholder agricultural supply chain. We are working to embed CLMRS into our day-to-day operations so we’ll be using our network of “lead farmers” as the backbone for data collection. Because they are literate, numerate and typically live in the cocoa-growing community, they are trusted role models helping to act as liaison between Cargill, the farmer cooperative and the community. The International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), the leading expert on child protection in cocoa communities, has been a key technical advisor in the development of our model and will also be training our lead farmers on data collection, identification, and monitoring for instances of child labour. Cargill and ICI, a long-time partner, have worked together to build local capacity by training more than 400 Ivorian Government rural extension agents on child labour awareness and identification.
We will be collecting extensive economic, social, and labour data, which we intend to report on publicly and share with others — especially ICI, SOSTECI and the World Cocoa Foundation — working towards a cocoa sector free of child labour. By sharing and learning together, we hope to accelerate progress, avoid duplication, and leverage our collective work to make sustainable, positive impacts on cocoa communities.