There are an estimated 1.56 million children in child labour in the cocoa sector in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, that’s 50% of children living in cocoa-growing households. Child labour is a complex issue that requires a comprehensive and coordinated response from the entire cocoa sector to ensure assistance reaches all those at risk. With over 13 years of experience tackling child labour with our partners, the International Cocoa Initiative has tested numerous solutions to address and prevent child labour, while also empowering and supporting farming communities. This article presents some of the activities that can have a real, positive impact, such as Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems, or community development approaches. Research shows that child labour prevalence can be reduced by up to one-third when these measures are put in place.


Raising awareness

Raising awareness of what children can and cannot do on the family farm is often an important first step to tackling child labour. There are multiple ways to carry out effective awareness-raising at the individual, household, or community level. Through conversations with farmers, discussions with community members, information and film sessions, the concept of child labour, its dangers and the hazardous tasks that children must not do nor be exposed to can be covered. At ICI we have developed a range of awareness-raising materials for this purpose such as our toolkitawareness-raising films (available in French only) and our animation series ‘Kweku and the Bird’.

Quality education: A gateway to protection

Evidence suggests that child labour is lower in communities where the quality of education available is higher. Interventions that help increase enrolment, attendance, and the overall quality of education given are vital. Education supports children’s development, improves their overall welfare, and can open up opportunities in the future, potentially breaking the cycle of poverty, which is a widespread underlying cause of child labour. Find out more about the importance of quality education for cocoa communities.

Getting children back into school

Children may not attend school for many reasons. This might be due to a lack of school infrastructure in or near their community, because their parents cannot afford school fees or they may have to help their parents on the farm. In the case of children in Cote d’Ivoire, the lack of a birth certificate may also prevent them from continuing their studies. Enabling out-of-school children to attend bridging classes can help them to catch up on their classes and eventually join their peers in the regular school system. Helping farming families obtain birth certificates for their children can also get children back into classrooms. Find out more about bridging classes.

Providing opportunities for older children

Older children can be at greater risk of child labour, particularly those who have dropped out of school. These children may not want to continue in the regular education system or may not be able to do so. Apprenticeship opportunities can provide an alternative way of learning that also reduces the risk of them becoming involved in child labour and creates opportunities for young people to provide for themselves once they become adults. ICI supports older children to take up apprenticeships in a trade that suits them. These include sewing, engineering, hairdressing and masonry. Find out more about the impact of apprenticeships.

Supporting farming families to develop alternative sources of income

Farming families are often highly dependent on cocoa, which can leave them vulnerable to shocks. ICI has found that these shocks, such as drops in the price of cocoa or adverse weather conditions, often lead to increases in child labour. In addition, due to the seasonal nature of cocoa, developing alternative sources of income can ensure that farmers have a source of income during the lean season. These alternatives can be quite varied. They can include other crops such as rice or cassava, or artisanal crafts, or beekeeping.

Empowering women to become changemakers

When women are empowered, children can be better protected. One way ICI works to empower women is through Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs). These groups allow women to develop financial literacy skills, pool resources, save money, support each other, and eventually take out small loans to support their families or invest in small businesses, such as alternative income sources mentioned above. Find out more about the impact of VSLAs.

Addressing labour shortages

Rural cocoa communities often lack available and affordable labour. This means that children may be called upon to help with farm work, potentially exposing them to hazardous tasks. To tackle this problem Community Service Groups can be formed at either the community or cooperative level. These groups can then provide affordable services to farmers. They are an effective way of both supporting farmers to improve their productivity and lessening the risk of children becoming involved in hazardous child labour. Find out more about the impact of Community Service Groups.

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.