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"No one likes child labour"

Pretty much everyone loves chocolate bars, bonbons and chocolate spread. But because of poverty among cocoa farmers, child labour is still common in West Africa. Export Trading Group (ETG) and Oxfam Novib are working together to find ways to increase the income of cocoa farmers in Côte d'Ivoire. The Fund against Child Labour (FBK) is supporting them in this. The ultimate goal is to fight child labour.

ETG trades in raw materials, including cocoa from Côte d'Ivoire. André van den Beld is the head of Sustainable Cocoa at ETG. He explains, “When a farmer is not earning enough, he will have his children work on the cocoa plantation, too. A living income helps solve that problem.”

Living income

The average cocoa farmer in West Africa earns less than one-third of the established living income. Sometimes, their income even places them below the poverty line. A living income means having enough money for a place to live, food for the entire family, health care, clothing and education for your children. It also means having the possibility to save a bit. That can enable the farmers to hire seasonal labourers, for example.

ETG has established the Beyond Beans foundation. This foundation supports farming families in West Africa. Through its EnRoute innovation project, ETG/Beyond Beans wants to take a holistic approach to closing this income gap. ETG/Beyond Beans is also looking at other crops, including cashews and coffee. Together with Oxfam Novib and local partners, it is setting up various interventions. It is also studying the interventions to see which is most effective.

A fair price

There is more than one way to create a living income. Premiums can enable a higher price per kilo of cocoa. Farmers can increase their harvests by planting better seeds or using artificial fertilisers. Another option is to expand their access to financial resources. ETG/Beyond Beans is exploring all these possibilities. Next, it will decide which mix yields the highest income for the farmers.

Mr Van den Beld explains that farmers who do not earn enough are more likely to have their children work on the farm. This means these children cannot go to school. “When farmers can invest in the farms and increase their production, cocoa farming will be a more solid business in the long term.” This will improve the cocoa farmers’ standard of living.

The story behind the product

Mr Van den Beld says consumers are putting more effort into learning about the products they buy. They want to know the story behind each product. “That is good news because no one likes child labour. Our company is no exception. That is why we need to make a product that is child-labour free. Only then can we survive, both as a business and as an industry.”

Would you like to know more?

Are you interested to learn more about the relationship between poverty, a living income and child labour? Read more about the FBK scheme.