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How Nestlé is tackling Child Labour in Cocoa Sector



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Child labour, the act of children engaging in work that deprives them of their potential, dignity, schooling and harmful to their physical and mental development, is so rampant in recent time.


According to a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the number of children in child labour has risen to 160 million worldwide, an increase of 8.4 million children in the last four years, with millions more at risk due to the impacts of COVID-19.


Key findings of the report titled: “Child Labour: Global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward,” revealed that the agriculture sector accounts for 70 per cent of children in child labour (112 million) followed by 20 per cent in services (31.4 million) and 10 per cent in industry (16.5 million).


Worst still, nearly 28 per cent of children aged five to 11 years and 35 per cent of children aged 12 to 14 years in child labour are out of school, the report stated, adding that, “Child labour is more prevalent among boys than girls at every age. When household chores performed for at least 21 hours per week are taken into account, the gender gap in child labour narrows. The prevalence of child labour in rural areas (14 per cent) is close to three times higher than in urban areas (5 per cent).”


Also, ILO, in a study, titled: “Rooting out child labour from cocoa farms,” revealed that these children work on small family farms or large plantations, caring for domestic animals, weeding and harvesting, collecting fodder and fuel, adding that a countless number of these children are missing out on school and many are regularly exposed to serious hazards and exploitation.


“The extent to which agricultural work is harmful to children depends on a number of factors, including the type of work they do, the hours they work, their age and their access to education. It also depends on whether or not they are separated from their families for long periods, and the degree to which they are exposed to specific hazards,” ILO explained.


This is unacceptable, said the executive vice president and head of operations, Nestlé, Magdi Batato, adding that, in the cocoa sector, most child labour takes place on family farms.


In a press statement, made available to ireporteronline, Batato said, Nestlé is working hard to change the narrative. He said, “At Nestlé, are unwavering in our commitment to addressing the root causes and helping as many children as possible. Together with partners, including governments, and building on a promising pilot program, Nestlé’s new initiative sharpens focus on these root causes of child labour.”


To start with, the vice president said it is important to have information about the conditions in farming communities and the context in which child labour occurs.


“This gives us a better chance to help individuals directly and respond to their specific needs. Sometimes, intervention efforts like securing a child’s birth certificate so they can attend school, providing children with school equipment and uniforms, conducting bridge classes to help transition children back into schools, making sure farming communities have schools nearby, by building or renovating them, enabling mothers of children at risk to generate their own income to cover school costs for their children and organizing adult worker groups to carry out tasks like pruning on farms, among others, have gone a long way in tackling child labour in communities,” he explained.



With these interventions, Batato averred that out of the 83 cooperatives in Côte D’Ivoire that supply Nestle with cocoa for instance, the company has been able to help 5756 secure birth certificate so they can complete their primary education, adding that nearly 600,000 community members have been educated on child labour issues. “We have been able to keep contact with the families of over 86,000 children to assess the risk of child labour. Almost 128,000 children have been protected against the risk of child labour since 2012 and more than 50 schools built or refurbished,” he added.


Nestlé has also introduced an innovative income accelerator program, as efforts to tackle child labour by improving the livelihood of cocoa families, while also advancing regenerative agriculture practices and gender equality. The program aims to help close the living income gap by embedding sustainable practices across four key areas.


According to Nestlé, additional cash incentives reward families not only for the quantity and quality of cocoa beans they produce but also for the benefits they provide to the environment, the local communities and their children.


Nestlé disclosed that the program offers a novel approach to help support farmers and their families in their transition to more sustainable cocoa farming.


“The incentives will encourage behaviours and agricultural practices that are designed to steadily build social and economic resilience over time. With Nestlé’s new approach, cocoa-farming families will now be rewarded not only for the quantity and quality of cocoa beans they produce but also for the benefits they provide to the environment and local communities.


“These incentives are on top of the premium introduced by the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana that Nestlé pays and the premiums Nestlé offers for certified cocoa. This cocoa is independently audited against the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard, promoting the social, economic and environmental well-being of farmers and local communities,” it said.


The company stated that the program rewards practices that increase crop productivity and help secure additional sources of income, which aim to close the gap to living income and help protect children.


By engaging in these practices, families can additionally earn up to CHF 500 annually for the first two years of the program, says Nestle, adding that, “The higher incentive at the start will help accelerate the implementation of good agricultural practices to build future impact. This incentive will then be levelled at CHF 250 thereafter as the program starts delivering tangible results.”


Nestle however reiterated that the incentive is not paid based on the volume of cocoa sold and is inclusive to provide smaller farmers meaningful support, leaving no one behind.


Examples of practices that Nestlé is incentivizing include school enrolment for all children in the household ages six to 16; implementing good agricultural practices, such as pruning, which increase crop productivity and performing agroforestry activities to increase climate resilience, like planting shade trees among others.


“Our goal is to have an additional tangible, positive impact on a growing number of cocoa-farming families, especially in areas where poverty is widespread and resources are scarce, and to help close the living income gap they face over time,” said Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider, adding that, “Building on our longstanding efforts to source cocoa sustainably, we will continue to help children go to school, empower women, improve farming methods and facilitate financial resources. We believe that, together with governments, NGOs and others in the cocoa industry, we can help improve the lives of cocoa-farming families and give children the chance to learn and grow in the safe and healthy environment they deserve.”



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