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Kids In Perilous Work

August 12, 2002 · 

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Many of 300,000 employed in cocoa production not paid The US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Labour Department released key findings that indicate that some 284,000 child labourers work in hazardous conditions on cocoa farms in West Africa, 200,000 of whom work in Cote d’Ivoire and most of whom work alongside their families. Such hazardous work includes spraying pesticides without personal protection and clearing undergrowth with machetes. There is also evidence that up to 2,500 child workers may have been trafficked for cocoa work in Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria. More than 4,800 farmers, child and adult workers, and community leaders were interviewed.

The study on child labour on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Cameroon and Ghana was one of the steps agreed last year by labour watchdogs, food makers, millers and consumer groups to end abusive child labour practices by 2005 at the latest.

Some estimates have put the number of child slaves at 15,000, prompting proposals to bar US imports of cocoa unless shippers can prove it was grown without slave labour.

Cocoa is the primary ingredient in making chocolate. Two-thirds of all cocoa products are consumed in Europe and North America. Ivory Coast grows more than 40% of the world’s cocoa and neighbouring Ghana is No. 2 with 15%.

“Clearly, poverty is the underlying cause for the child labour situation in West Africa,” said Jim Gockowski, the researcher from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture who supervised the work.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and national research collaborators in Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria conducted the surveys with the support of USAID and USDOL, the global chocolate industry, ILO-IPEC, and West African governments. The Chocolate Manufacturers Association, a trade group for the U.S. chocolate industry, said the study “confirms the need to address the safety of children on cocoa farms and the economic well-being of cocoa-farming families” as well as supporting the multi-step process to reform labour practices.

Deputy Under Secretary for International Labour Affairs Tom Moorhead said, “These children are not only working in dangerous jobs, they are also losing the chance for an education. But with this survey information we can better define the problem and in turn design a better program to address the problem. Most important is that the chocolate manufacturers and the West African governments have been working closely with us to eliminate exploitative child labour in the cocoa industry.”

As part of that effort, an International Cocoa Initiative was launched on July 1 to support field projects and act as a clearinghouse for “best practices” to reform labour practices, to develop a plan to enforce standards against child and forced labour, and to help determine the best ways to monitor and report on compliance with those standards.

The report will be soon made available at http://www.usaid.gov and http://www.dol.gov/ilab.
(From the files of US Newswire)

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