Hazardous child labour in Côte d’Ivoire’s cocoa communities during COVID-19
Analysis of data from 263 cocoa-growing communities in Côte d’Ivoire shows a rise in the number of children identified as carrying out hazardous work in cocoa production during the Covid-19 related partial lockdown. Data from ICI’s Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems found an increase in child labour identification from 16% to 19% in the two-month period from 17 March to 15 May, representing a 21.5% increase.
A rapid analysis of data gathered from the International Cocoa Initiative’s Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS) in Côte d’Ivoire suggests a rise in hazardous child labour during the country’s partial lockdown that was implemented to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. While we cannot be sure of the mechanisms behind this rise at this stage (further research will be needed to better understand this), statistical tests done as part of the analysis support the hypothesis that the increase in child labour identification during 17 March to 15 May 2020 is related to the shock of COVID-19 and not due to a general trend.
Analysis of CLMRS data from selected communities
ICI’s CLMRS works through Community Facilitators, many of them members of cocoa-growing communities. These facilitators gather information to identify cases of child labour through interviews with families and children. Although the Covid-19 pandemic restricted some of ICI’s work, monitoring visits continued in communities where facilitators were already present, while respecting social distancing guidelines. A total of 1,443 households within 263 communities were visited and 3,223 children interviewed during the partial lockdown. This unique system and structure has enabled ICI to better understand the changes happening on the ground within this selection of communities at this unprecedented time.
Results of the analysis show a 21.5% increase in child labour identification, compared to the same two-month period in previous years. It is unclear at this stage exactly what has contributed to the rise in child labour during this period in these communities, but reasons could include the closure of schools, restrictions on movement resulting in lower availability of adult labour, an economic downturn impacting cocoa-growing farmers, or a combination of these and other factors. A separate telephone survey conducted with 515 cocoa producers in Côte d’Ivoire between 2 to 9 June found that over half of respondents reported a drop in household income, due to a combination of decreased earnings and increased pressure on household budgets, since schools closed in March.
A recently published review of evidence on the impact of changes in smallholder farmers’ income on child labour also showed that negative income shocks generally tend to increase child labour.
In the coming months, further analysis will be needed on longer time series data, as well as more refined econometric tools, to understand better the causes of this rise and its evolution over time.
Reinforcing current efforts to tackle child labour
These findings highlight the vulnerability of cocoa-growing households in West Africa and shows how quickly progress in addressing child labour can potentially be reversed.
They highlight the need to mobilise further international support to reinforce efforts currently being made by the government, industry and civil society partners to tackle child labour and improve children’s access to fundamental rights, such as quality education. There is a growing body of evidence that such efforts are having a positive impact on children’s lives: according to UNESCO statistics net primary school enrolment increased from 67% in 2013 to 90% in 2018 in Côte d’Ivoire; ICI’s own studies illustrate that community development programmes have been effective in reducing child labour by 20-30%; and Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems have been found to reduce hazardous child labour by around 50% amongst children identified.
“The CLMRS generates real-time data which can provide a detailed view of what is happening at the household, farmer and child level in cocoa-growing communities. We hope that the results of this rapid analysis are able to inform decisions taken to improve the lives of the most vulnerable during these difficult times and the resilience of the systems they depend on,” said Nick Weatherill, Executive Director of ICI.
Many of the restrictions on movement have now been relaxed and schools have reopened. But the number of Covid-19 cases in Côte d’Ivoire continues to rise and further negative impacts may still be felt. The report points to the need for further efforts to support the cocoa households cope with future shocks – be they related to income, labour supply, health or climate. Such efforts should include interventions which have been proven to boost resilience and reduce child labour.
These findings also highlight the importance of preparedness to ensure cocoa-growing households are better able to cope with future shocks. Systems to prevent, identify and remediate child labour should be strengthened, so that they can support farming households at times when they need it most.
ICI will further examine the causes of these child labour increases and is exploring a new collaboration with the Jacobs Foundation to pilot innovative ways of responding. Findings will be used to improve the effectiveness and resilience of government, industry and civil society approaches to ensure that children in cocoa-growing communities are better protected from future shocks.
This analysis compares the situation in 263 cocoa communities prior to, and during the partial lockdown, to understand the effects of this shock on child labour. This study was not designed to analyse – and should not be used to draw conclusions about – broader trends in relation to child labour prevalence.
This article was originally published on 1 July 2020 and updated for clarity on 22 July 2020. The results remain unchanged.