NEW ASSESSMENT ON CHILD PROTECTION IN COCOA-GROWING COMMUNITIES
By Cathy Pieters, Director of the Cocoa Life program - 05/23/16
In our ongoing efforts to improve our program, we commissioned Embode, a human rights consulting agency, to assess the situation of child labor in our top three origins. Today we are publishing Embode’s first two reports, on Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. (Here is the executive summary for Côte d’Ivoire and here is the summary for Ghana.) Below is a conversation about these reports with Aidan McQuade, the director of Anti-Slavery International and an advisor to Cocoa Life.
Read more on
Cathy Pieters: It’s important for Cocoa Life to really understand the environment that we’re operating in and how we, with the efforts we’re making with partners on the ground, governments, and others, can best help combat child labor and improve child protection.
Aidan McQuade: The Embode reports represent a very positive step forward in terms of transparency and new thinking on how to address some of the root causes of child labor in cocoa farming: from traditional practices, to limited implementation of national laws against child labor, to insufficiency of schools, to poor quality or inappropriateness of education within the schools, to attitudes, to migrant children.
Cathy Pieters: One of the key issues is poverty, simply. You can’t put systems in place in the communities and try to do a whole set of awareness raising and sensitization if you don’t tackle the poverty issue at the same time. There is a historical-cultural aspect as well, which can only be overcome with sensitization of the community as a whole.
Aidan McQuade: Amongst other important recommendations, the Embode reports highlight the role that education can play in the reduction of child labor, and the importance of continued public engagement by Mondelēz International in regard to national and sector-wide response to child labor and child slavery.
Cathy Pieters: We were happy to see that Embode is commending Cocoa Life’s unique holistic approach, and the fact that we work directly with the cocoa communities in our supply chain. They recognize Cocoa Life’s potential to drive meaningful change at scale by tackling the root causes of child labor.
Aidan McQuade: The recommendations build on activities which are already happening to some extent through the Cocoa Life program. So it is not wholly new territory. However the scale and intent of the recommendations are new and this will undoubtedly pose a challenge.
Cathy Pieters: I think one of the challenges is that child labor and child protection is such a big topic. So it needs to be a joint effort, with different partners on the ground. As an industry, it is very important to make sure we are aligned with our peers and working alongside the government. And that’s not easy. In Africa there’s this saying, “If you want to go quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” And it’s definitely a “run together” that we need to do.
Aidan McQuade: The publication of the report is itself an important step, sharing the learning with others who may have similar issues and concerns. Acting on the recommendations of the report within the cocoa communities with which Mondelēz International is working is an important step also, so that the report does not merely gather dust but influences the policy and practice of Cocoa Life.
Cathy Pieters: We are already working with the Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire teams, and also with our partners, to see how we can best implement Embode’s recommendations, which include strengthening our programming, revising our KPIs, improving children’s access to education, and reinforcing child protection structures.
Aidan McQuade: Engaging with other businesses through existing non-competitive platforms within the cocoa sector, and in the broader agricultural sector on a pre-competitive basis, to work together to address the issues of child labor and child slavery in the ways outlined in this report would also be an extremely positive step which could help deliver wider impact.
Cathy Pieters: And we already have a structure in place to make that happen: CocoaAction, an industry-wide strategy that aligns the world’s leading cocoa companies, governments, and key stakeholders on cocoa sustainability. All of the participating companies will be reporting back on the common framework, including child labor KPIs, and implementation of child labor monitoring and remediation systems.