Attention to human rights in the cocoa sector in West Africa has historically centered on the problem of child labour, which has long been known to be endemic in the industry. In recent years, however, a combination of increasing public awareness and intensifying international regulatory pressure has led to a heightened focus on the risk of forced labour — often termed “modern day slavery” — in the sector as well.
A statistically representative study by Tulane University and Walk Free Foundation in 2018 estimated that 9,600 adults working in cocoa experienced forced labour in Côte d’Ivoire (CDI) between 2013 and 2017. The same study found that 2,000 children working in cocoa agriculture in CDI were forced to work by someone other than a parent. Given the hidden nature of much human trafficking and forced labour, it is also possible that levels may be significantly higher within isolated pockets in the sector. There is clear need for government, industry, and civil society actors working in the sector in Côte d’Ivoire to better understand the issue of forced labour and take steps to address the root causes of the problem when and where it occurs.
In late 2016, at the request of the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) and two of its major private sector members, Verité researchers undertook rapid appraisal research to explore the nature of forced labour risk in the cocoa sector in Côte d’Ivoire. The study did not seek to document the overall level of forced labour in the sector, but instead to identify and qualitatively describe the nature of the specific indicators of forced labour that appear to be most relevant in the Ivoirian context. Verité based the methodology for this research on the definition of forced labor and methodological guidance on forced labor research provided by the International Labour Organization (ILO). Using the ILO’s forced labour indicator framework, the Verité study focused on identifying specific risk factors for forced labour faced by cocoa workers, sharecroppers, and primary producers in the country. The study also explored the root causes and contextual factors that contribute to forced labour vulnerability in the Ivoirian cocoa sector. Verité then used findings from the study to inform development of a set of recommendations for key stakeholders on potential interventions to combat the forced labour risk identified (see Recommendations for Addressing Forced Labor Risk in the Cocoa Sector of Côte d’Ivoire).