US delegation visits ILO projects addressing child labour in cocoa-farming communities in Côte d'Ivoire

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, September 3, 2019 – A delegation of staff members from the United States House of Representatives visited a cocoa-growing community, which benefited from four International Labour Office (ILO) projects aimed at eliminating child labour and improving occupational safety and health (OSH) for young farmers and communities in Côte d’Ivoire.

Article | 04 September 2019
Us delegation member greeting local leaders
In Diekadiokro, a village in the M’Batto region of south-central Côte d’Ivoire, community members accompanied by their leaders had an interactive session with the US delegation, sharing parents’ and local implementing staff members’ experience in tackling child labour and safety at work issues.

“We managed to build a consensus on the need to prevent and eliminate child labour and enrol and keep children at school,” explained Flora Kwame, director of M’batto Social Centre, a local office under the Ivorian Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and partner to the ILO on different projects since 2012.

A Public-Private Partnership (PPP) between the Chocolate and Cocoa Industry and the ILO to Combat Child Labour in Cocoa Growing Communities in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana is among the projects aimed to strengthen Child Labour Monitoring Systems (CLMS) and provide support to national, district and community level operations in both Côte d’Ivoire and neighbouring Ghana.

“In M’batto, we successfully identified and removed 49 children from child labour,” explained Flora Kwame.
M’batto Social Centre has also provided support to the “Towards child labour-free cocoa-growing communities in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana through an integrated area based approach” Cocoa Communities Project (CCP), an initiative framed by the Declaration of action to support the implementation of the Harkin-Engel Protocol.

The initiative aims to accelerate progress in the elimination of child labour, with a focus on its worst forms, in cocoa-growing communities.
“We helped communities to prioritize the actions needed to address social and economic issues and formulate community action plans in order to increase their productivity and drive the local development,” said Flora Kwame.

“We organised ‘plans selling’ days through which community members would ‘market’ their respective community plans to potential donors and advocate for its funding,” she continued.

Thanks to this strategy, community members mobilized multiple sources of funding for the implementation of their community action plans, which resulted in the strengthening of partnerships and ensured sustainability for their actions against child labour.

Among the partners were international institutions such as the African Development Bank, alongside non-governmental organisations, the town hall, and the Cocoa and Coffee Council, which collaborated with communities to strengthen the education system.

Addressing the US delegation on issues relating to women’s empowerment, Auwa Ya, president of the local women’s association, conducted a tour of an economic activity driven by a group of 10 women with the aim of covering some household expenses.

We produce ‘attieke’* and sell it not only on our local market – we also reach Abidjan markets. It helps us to pay for the children’s school fees when the production does not suffice."

Woman preparing a cassava for Attieke
“We produce ‘attieke’* and sell it not only on our local market – we also reach Abidjan markets. It helps us to pay for the children’s school fees when the production does not suffice,” said Auwa Ya.

With the nearest schools located 20 kilometres away from the village, community members contributed to the construction of two classrooms and recruited volunteer teachers, so their children could be educated closer to home.

“We first constructed a hangar that served as classroom, but today we count two classrooms built in durable materials, thanks to the advocacy efforts towards the AfDB that supported us on this,” explained Kwame.

The US delegation also visited initiatives carried out to promote occupational safety and health (OSH) in cocoa production as part of the Work Improvement in Neighbourhood Development (WIND) interventions, with the support of the Safeyouth@Work project.

The ILO-US Department of Labour-funded project seeks to improve the OSH for young workers aged 16-24 in Côte d’Ivoire and helps develop a culture of prevention through a mainstreaming of OSH concerns for young workers as part of the national strategy to eliminate child labour.

The visiting delegation exchanged with OSH trainers and peers who displayed some innovative cocoa production techniques such as the in-line plantations and successful crop diversification schemes.

Through a set of training for trainers and farmers in the village, community members learned to adopt or create solutions that would ease their work and prevent most of the identified health and safety risks throughout the production chain.

A locally made tool used to split cocoa beans
“We have shifted from using machetes while splitting the cocoa bean to a safer, faster and locally made tool that helps prevent farmers from having accidents,” explained Narcisse Aka, one of the peer trainers at M’batto Social Centre.

We also make compost with the cocoa pods, using them as soil fertilizer."

“We also make compost with the cocoa pods, using them as soil fertilizer,” he said.

In the village, community members have identified a ‘cemetery’ where pesticide products are stored, a place that is only accessed by a member who proceeds with the final burial of the products.

While tackling child labour, ILO privileges a holistic approach that takes into account the environment around child labourers, engaging with families and addressing community challenges in order to tackle the root causes of child labour, and promote sustainable project activities.

“Social and economic dynamics are taken into account while tackling child labour.

We also ensure that our implementing partners have a long experience in the local system and benefit from continuous support in terms of capacity-building,” said Boua Bi Honore Semien, National Project Coordinator at the ILO in Abidjan.

“The ILO also invests in a documentation and knowledge-sharing system in order to create a chain of innovative techniques covering the entire country,” he said.

In 2018, the assessed contributions from the US Government to ILO amounted to US$ 83.6 million globally, while US contributions to ILO’s voluntarily funded development cooperation projects totalled over US$ 23 million.

“We came to hear from the families, the parents. As the first custodians of families’ social and economic well-being, we wanted to know their experience and understand how best they are benefitting from the ILO interventions through US funds,” said Taylor Redick, Policy Analyst at United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs and member of the American delegation.

The ILO recently launched a new Dutch-funded project that aims to accelerate the action for the elimination of child labour in selected supply chains in the region, namely cocoa, coffee, cotton, tea and gold in Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria and Uganda.

With a budget of over US$ 27 million, the ACCEL Africa project builds on the experience of the ILO with government, employers and workers at the global, national and local level, and with actors along global supply chains and in the private sector.

*A couscous-like staple made from cassava that is considered a national dish in Côte d'Ivoire.