Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are the world’s two largest cocoa producers, with their combined production contributing 60 percent of the world’s annual supply of cocoa.1 Walk Free, in partnership with Tulane University, and with funding from Dutch chocolate company Tony’s Chocolonely and the Chocolonely Foundation, undertook representative surveys in medium and high cocoa producing areas of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire with the aim of estimating the prevalence of forced labour of both adults and children, as well as child labour, in cocoa agriculture in these areas.2
How we measured modern slavery in cocoa agriculture
The criteria for classifying forced labour of adults for statistical purposes reflect the criteria currently used by the ILO. Where children are concerned, we sought to apply the ILO measurement framework3(see Figure 1). However, gaps in data meant that some aspects were not able to be measured (explained below). Also, additional information is presented to allow deeper understanding of the impact of family structures on forced labour.
While the ILO considers that children working for parents in forced labour are themselves in forced labour, our study did not capture data that would enable us to estimate the number of these children, so this aspect is not included in our estimates and, as a result, there is likely an underestimate of the overall number of children in forced labour. At the same time, when it comes to estimating the number of children who are forced to work, the ILO includes children who are forced to work by any family members who are not a parent. Consultations with experts with in-depth knowledge of the cocoa sector of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire highlighted that, in the context of children working in cocoa agriculture, relatives other than parents (for instance, aunts, uncles, siblings, grandparents) are often primary caregivers who take on the role of parent and make decisions for the child. To account for this, in this study we also present estimates of the number of children forced to work in cocoa agriculture by someone who was not a family member, in addition to estimates of those who were forced to work by a family member other than a parent.
Prevalence of modern slavery in cocoa agriculture in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire
In August of 2017, interviews were conducted in Ghana with adults (aged 18 years and over) and children (aged 10 to 17 years) residing areas of medium and high cocoa production and who had worked in cocoa agriculture in the preceding 12 months. Surveys sought information on a respondent’s own experiences of forced labour in cocoa agriculture between 2013 and 2017, and for children, their own experiences of child labour in cocoa agriculture in the preceding 12 months. The analysis included surveys from 903 adults and 715 children.
Adults in forced labour in cocoa agriculture
An estimated 1.1 million adults worked in cocoa agriculture in the medium and high cocoa growing areas of Ghana between August 2016 and August 2017. We found that for every 1,000 adult cocoa workers in medium and high cocoa growing areas, an estimated 3.3 were victims of forced labour between 2013 and 2017.5 This corresponds to approximately 3,700 adult victims of forced labour in cocoa agriculture in that time.
Forced labour of children in cocoa agriculture
Our findings suggest an estimated 708,000 children worked in cocoa agriculture in medium and high cocoa producing areas of Ghana between August 2016 and August 2017. It is estimated that for every 1,000 children working in cocoa agriculture in areas of medium and high cocoa production, approximately 1.56 were victims of child forced labour at the hands of someone outside the family between 2013 and 2017. This equates to around 1,000 victims of child forced labour in cocoa agriculture in medium to high production areas over that period.
In line with the ILO criteria for forced labour of children, when including those who had been forced to work in cocoa agriculture by someone other than a parent, this estimate increased to 20 children in child labour per 1,000 children working in cocoa agriculture in these areas between 2013 and 2017,7 a higher rate than the national rate of modern slavery in Ghana. Hence, an estimated 14,000 children working in cocoa agriculture were victims of child forced labour in these areas between 2013 and 2017.
Forced labour of children takes place in the context of high levels of child labour. Of the estimated 708,000 children aged 10 to 17 years who worked in cocoa agriculture in medium and high cocoa producing areas of Ghana between August 2016 and August 2017, just over 94 percent,8 or approximately 668,000 children, experienced child labour (children performing either hazardous labour in the previous 12 months, exceeding maximum allowable working hours for children their age in the previous week, or both). Of those in child labour, an estimated 632,000 children performed hazardous work, equating to slightly more than 89 percent9 of all children working in cocoa agriculture in these areas. Of the participants who reported hazardous work, 81 percent reported carrying heavy loads and 71 percent reported using sharp tools.10
In October and November of 2017, interviews were conducted in Côte d’Ivoire with adults (aged 18 years and over) and children (aged 10 to 17 years) residing areas of medium and high cocoa production and who had worked in cocoa agriculture in the preceding 12 months. Surveys sought information on a respondent’s own experiences of forced labour in cocoa agriculture between 2013 and 2017, and for children, their own experiences of child labour11in cocoa agriculture in the preceding 12 months. The analysis included surveys from 920 adults and 664 children.
Adults in forced labour in cocoa agriculture
We estimate that just under 2.3 million adults worked in cocoa agriculture in medium and high cocoa producing areas of Côte d’Ivoire between October 2016 and November 2017. An estimated 4.2 adult workers12 per 1,000 adult workers in cocoa agriculture, equating to around 10,000 people aged 18 years and over, experienced forced labour in cocoa agriculture between 2013 and 2017.
Forced labour of children in cocoa agriculture
The results of our study suggest that, in total, 891,000 children aged 10 to 17 years worked in cocoa production in medium and high cocoa producing areas of Côte d’Ivoire between October 2016 and November 2017. None of the children surveyed in the present study reported being forced to work by someone outside the family between 2013 and 2017. While this result may indicate the problem is not widespread in these areas within Côte d’Ivoire, it may otherwise reflect limitations in survey design or the difficulty of identifying crimes of this nature through self-reporting by children.
In line with the ILO definition of child forced labour, an estimated 1.7 children13 were forced to work by someone other than a parent per 1,000 children working in cocoa agriculture in these areas between 2013 and 2017. This equates to approximately 2,000 victims of forced child labour.
As with Ghana, forced labour of children in Côte d’Ivoire occurs in a context of endemic child labour. An estimated 93 percent of the children14 working in medium and high cocoa growing areas of Côte d’Ivoire were found to have experienced child labour in the year preceding the survey, equating to around 829,000 children in child labour (children performing either hazardous labour in the previous 12 months, exceeding maximum allowable working hours for children their age in the previous week, or both). Of those in child labour, an estimated 769,000 children worked under hazardous conditions in the previous year, corresponding to an estimated 86 percent of all children15 working in cocoa agriculture in these areas. Of the participants who reported hazardous work, 70 percent reported they had worked with sharp tools, 59 percent had been involved in land clearing, and 60 percent had lifted heavy loads in cocoa agriculture in the previous year.16
Drivers of modern slavery in cocoa agriculture
Consistent with prior research on the extent of child labour in cocoa agriculture, child labour is common in the study areas and is characterised largely by children’s involvement in hazardous work. As the survey results confirm, within this context it is not surprising that forced labour also occurs.
Understanding the factors that likely drive these practices is crucial to developing effective responses. Cocoa agriculture is generally characterised by small-scale farming, with around 90 percent of the world’s cocoa being produced on small, independent farms of one to five hectares.17 Production is highly decentralised among an estimated 4.5 million small-scale cocoa producers globally18 and cocoa farming is generally the main source of income for families living in cocoa growing communities. Therefore, cocoa farmers and their families’ livelihoods are highly dependent on farm yields and cocoa prices.19 Furthermore, work in cocoa agriculture is characterised by long hours in the sun performing physically demanding work, the use of hazardous cutting tools and pesticides, and it requires travelling great distances and carrying heavy loads.20
As with the drivers of modern slavery seen in other sectors, what underlies a person’s risk to modern slavery in cocoa agriculture is an interplay of individual and environmental factors that create a setting primed for labour exploitation to take place. Available literature and research on labour exploitation in cocoa farming suggests that this exploitation is driven and reinforced by:
- Chronic poverty of farmers: The average cocoa farmer earns around 50 cents (US$) a day in Côte d’Ivoire and about 84 cents (US$) a day in Ghana, well below the extreme poverty line of US$1.25 per day.21 Given the small scale of farms, relatively low yield, and little power to influence value distribution across the cocoa value chain, increasing profits in the sector22 have not reached cocoa farmers, and their income remains very low.23This drives demand for cheap labour, allowing an environment where labour exploitation and modern slavery can exist.
- Price instability of cocoa on the world market in combination with feeble bargaining power of small-scale farmers: Farmers are constantly under pressure to find ways to sustain their livelihoods which may include cutting labour costs.24
- Low levels/quality of education: West Africa has some of the lowest literacy rates in the world.25 Lack of access to quality education means that cocoa farmers and adults in cocoa growing communities remain uneducated and unskilled, further exacerbating cycles of poverty.26
- The nature of small-scale farming: Given that most cocoa is grown on independent smallholder plots and most farmers are not part of larger farmer organisations, there is a clear lack of governance structures and oversight,27which provides opportunities to exploit workers with little fear of penalty.
- Low prosecution rates resulting from lack of access to police and justice: Cases of exploitation are rarely reported to the authorities. This is due to difficulties in being able to reach police stations from remote communities to and from which there is little or no easy means of transport.28
Business and government working towards the elimination of modern slavery in cocoa agriculture
Businesses, driven partly by consumer desire for ethically sourced chocolate, have undertaken efforts towards addressing exploitation of children in their cocoa supply chains and have funded prevention initiatives in source communities.29 In particular, key pieces of research on the size of the issue of child labour in the cocoa sector of West Africa30 were spurred by the formation of the Harkin-Engel Protocol in 2001.31 This voluntary industry initiative was developed in partnership with US Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Eliot Engel in effort to eradicate the Worst Forms of Child Labour32 in the growing and processing of cocoa. Other initiatives have included the implementation of monitoring and remediation systems for child labour, community education to increase awareness of the dangers of child labour among members, and farmer cooperatives to reduce farmer costs, strengthen their bargaining power, and set and maintain payment standards. However, there has been limited focus on forced child labour and forced labour in adults in cocoa agriculture, and a relatively small amount of data has been collected.
Another step aimed at reducing modern slavery in cocoa agriculture was made at the 2017 UN Climate Change Conference, with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana joining with leading chocolate and cocoa companies in announcing the “Frameworks for Action” to eliminate illegal cocoa agriculture in national parks. The actions are consistent with the Paris Climate Agreement and include key development partners including the British, Dutch and Swiss governments, as well as the World Bank.33 In 2017, Ghana made efforts towards the implementation of its National Plan of Action Phase II on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Labor34. The government of Côte d’Ivoire has also demonstrated efforts towards tackling child labour in cocoa, committing to further support the National Child Labour Monitoring System in 2016 and partnering with the International Cocoa Initiative.35
While promising efforts have been made, eliminating modern slavery from cocoa agriculture is a long-term challenge and will require sustained engagement and cooperation by global and local stakeholders, including companies that profit from the end product of cocoa farming, governments of countries that export and those that import cocoa products, as well as the farmers themselves.