A community development approach is one way to tackle child labour. Following a participatory model, it brings communities together and allows them to play an active role in implementing child-centred development. This approach can be run on its own or together with Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS).

The International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) began implementing community development activities in 2007 and ran an improved four-year Community Development Programme, aligned with the CocoaAction Community Development Package, between 2015-18. ICI continues to implement this approach with several partners in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire often in conjunction with CLMRS. In line with other long-term industry-funded child protection approaches, that studies have shown to be effective, ICI’s programme had success tackling child labour and improving the situation for communities as a whole. This article presents some of the ways we have seen the approach impact the lives of children and entire cocoa-growing communities.

Protecting children from child labour 

The core objective of the community development approach is to support communities to implement child-centred development and reduce child labour. A recent impact study shows that ICI’s community development approach reduced child labour by around 20% in Côte d’Ivoire. This approach can also reduce the severity of child labour, meaning children are less exposed to harm. The impact study also found a decrease in the number of days children worked per week, the number of hours they worked, and the number of hazardous tasks they did.

Improving access to quality education

Access to infrastructure, particularly schools, can be a significant challenge facing cocoa communities. Improving access to education is a frequent objective in community action plans. Supporting communities to construct new educational facilities, including toilets and canteens, helped to increase school enrolment in Ivoirian communities. Additional activities, such as providing school kits, running bridging classes to enable out-of-school children to catch up on missed learning, and facilitating access to birth certificates, contributed to getting children into school and helping them continue their studies. Learn more about the importance of quality education.

Mobilising community members to become changemakers

Through consultations with farmers, their families, and children, community leaders and elders that help identify specific needs and priorities, community members are actively engaged in the design of a community action plan. As part of the action plan process, community members identify solutions to the challenges they face and are involved in the development process from the start. Activities can include renovating or building educational facilities, providing affordable adult labour, and setting up community groups. Community Child Protection Committees play a key role in bringing the action plan to life. These groups are usually made up of around seven volunteers who receive training on children’s rights and child labour. It is their job to identify children at risk of child labour and support awareness-raising with other community members.

Empowering women

Activities run as part of community development approaches can have specific benefits for women. Adult literacy classes, the set-up of small business or income-generating activities, and Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) can all play a role in addressing power imbalances between men and women, and empowering women, enabling them to take on more decision making which can translate into better child protection. Learn more about the role of income-generating activities and VSLAs.

Benefitting the wider community

As with other approaches with proven impact, all community members can benefit from the protective and supportive environment that is promoted. This is important as child labour is not isolated to cocoa farms. All households are included, whatever their livelihood. Examples of activities that may benefit the wider community include adult education classes and group income-generating activities, both of which can play a part in building resilience to shocks, help tackle poverty, as well as reducing the risks of child labour in the future. ICI’s experience of implementing community development has shown that these benefits can be far reaching.

Watch our four-part series ‘Community Development in Action’ to learn more about the impact this approach can have.

This article is part of a series highlighting what works to tackle child labour (more information here). At ICI we are working with our partners and the wider cocoa sector to ensure that these activities are scaled up as part of child protection systems to reach all those in need. Find out more in our 2021-2026 strategy.