• Greg Bows

Stopping Child Labour:

Unfortunately, many farming practices including mass exports from underdeveloped

countries, result in child labor.  The international market, low buying prices, along with

demand, and most importantly income disparity lead farm managers to employee children

as young as 12 years old.  These children will make less than $1 per day. Most cocoa

farming families live below the World Bank's poverty line of $2 a day, according to the

charity International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), fueling child labour, while the farm managers

and farm owners rake in the profits of an industry that makes roughly $100 billion dollars

in sales each year.

Jeff Luckstead, an agricultural economist at the University of Arkansas, stated" It's a really difficult issue because these are very poor farmers ... They don't have many options

- they can't just go and hire peopleWhereas, Genevieve LeBaron of Britain's Sheffield University states

"If you look at the annual profits of the largest cocoa and chocolate confectionary

companies in the world, there's plenty of money in that supply chain that could be

redistributed downwards along the value chain".


In 2015, the UN targeted the end of child labour by 2025.  Mars, Nestle and Hershey

promised to only buy ‘ethical’ cocoa by 2020.  However, the companies missed deadlines

in 2005, 2008, and 2010, and they most likely will miss next years deadline with the

excuse being they cannot identify the cocoa back to the farms of origin. Mars, maker of

M&M’s and Milky Way, can trace only 24 percent of its cocoa back to farms; Hershey,

the maker of Kisses and Reese’s, less than half; Nestlé can trace 49 percent of its global

cocoa supply to farms.  

Ghana has a regulating body controlled by the government, COCOBOD.  COCOBOD

buys from the farmers, thus, are able to pinpoint farms and the laborers on these farms.

 Some have said fixing the issue is to call on COCOBOD- raising their prices. This may

solve the issue in Ghana; however, Ghana is the only country that regulates its cocoa. The

other giant in the cocoa exporting business, Ivory Coast, does not have as extensive

regulations and subsidies.  Thus, the country regularly has buses carrying children to the

Ivorian farms to be used for their labour.

In a recent Washington Post article, correspondents went to some cocoa farms in the

previous countries mentioned to talk with Cocoa farmers and some of the children

working the farms. “It’s them who do the work.” The farmer said he was paying the boy’s “gran patron,” the “big boss” who manages the boys, a little less than $9 per child for a week of work and who would, in turn, pay each of the boys about half of that. The farmer said he considers the boys’ treatment unfair but hired them because he needed the help. “The low price for cocoa makes life difficult for everyone”, he said.

“I admit that it is a kind of slavery,” the farmer said. “They are still kids and they have

the right to be educated today. But they bring them here to work, and it’s the boss who

takes the money.”

Who is at fault here?  The companies reaping the benefits of the child labour? The

consumers for continuely buying a product that is known to be a cause of child labour, or

the farmers themselves?  The fault can be blamed from the bottom of the chain to the top

of the chain. Without regulating farmers, constant checks on farms, proper labeling

(enforcing companies to stateno child labour was used in the making of this product),

checks on the companies citing the expulsion of child labour, and holding governments

accountable will lead,  to assiting in ending end child labour.

Cultivate’s approach is to make the farmer more uniformed in their agricultural practice,

habits and education.  According to Fairtrade, The typical Ivorian cocoa farm is small —

less than 10 acres and about 60 percent of the country’s rural population lacks access to

electricity, and, according to UNESCO, the literacy rate of the Ivory Coast reaches about

44 percent.

With such low wages, Ivorian parents often can’t afford the costs of sending their

children to school — and they use them on the farm instead.  Educating rural farmers on

the importance of education, food security, cheaper organic methods of fertilizer,

insecticides, and pesticides, along with basic business practices will make the farmer

more well-rounded and ultimately lead to higher earnings.  

The importance of food security will allow a family to be healthier thus, save money on

medicine for illnesses.  Basic business practices for illiterate and literate farmers alike,

will allow farmers to record expenditures and income to be able to budget their money

more efficiently.  Often times Cocoa farmers will get their yearly income in 6 weeks

andfrom not knowing best practices in the management of their money will run out

before the next harvest arrives.

Kofi Annan stated “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”

For families to stop sending their children to farms starts from the top of the chain as

well as starting from the bottom.  It must be a collective effort from all parties involved to

make sure fair trade/wage practices are being implemented. Also, that families recieve

the necessary education expanding their knowledge of how to live a healthy lifestyle,

basic agricultural practices, and budgeting technqiues.  This ultimately will lead to a

higher wages, more efficient use of money, healthier households, and remove the need to

send children to farms where their labour will be exploited.

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