Cameroon: The Challenge to Make Chocolate Child Labour Free

There are over a quarter of a million children who work in the cocoa plantations of West Africa. It's hazardous work, which exposes children to highly toxic pesticides. ILO TV reports from Cameroon, where the International Labour Organization has been working to eliminate child labour from cocoa production and help children return to school.

Date issued: 11 June 2008 | Size/duration: 00:02:16 (9.2 MB)
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Another school day begins and Etienne is hard at work catching up on two years of missed classes.

When Etienne was twelve, his parents took him out of school. His father was ill and so he became the family’s breadwinner, joining thousands of other child labourers in Cameroon’s cocoa farms.

Most of the world’s chocolate is made from West African cocoa. The International Labour Organization estimates that nearly 300,000 school-aged children work in dangerous conditions to produce it.

Julius Fomboh, Resource Development Foundation, Cameroon

It’s really serious, children working on the farms, it’s very very serious, I think it’s worse than the slave trade because at least adults can protect themselves, but children, their response is not like an adult.

Etienne could earn up to three dollars a day but without an education, that was all he would ever do… as long as he survived snake bites, machete wounds, and exposure to the highly toxic pesticides used to drench the cocoa pods.

Julius Fomboh, Resource Development Foundation, Cameroon

When did you start using the machete in the field?

Etienne Babila, former child labourer

Yes, twelve years.

For Etienne to return to school, his family had to find another way of making money. The solution, with the help of the ILO project: their very own restaurant. And this is today’s lunch.

The project has helped 650 families in Cameroon to start their own businesses to make up for the money that their children once earned on the farms.

Fifty children have now been sent back to school in this one small village and 11,000 across West Africa.

Béatrice Bime, ILO Child Labour Project, Cameroon

Investing in a child today is better for the future, and keeping a child out of school is actually delaying the child’s future and perpetuating poverty.

Etienne is now captain of the kids’ football team and teachers say he is quickly making up for lost lessons.

For Etienne and his classmates, the right response to child labour is education.