What is child labour? What causes it? How serious is it? What can be done about it? Read here about the issue.


Children in cocoa-growing areas face the realities of rural poverty (scarcity of land, food insecurity, lack of education infrastructure, access to potable water, poor health services, etc.). The regular practice of children working on cocoa farms is often a natural way of life for cocoa farmers who, for a variety of reasons, want to train their children and at the same time use them in order to reduce labour costs on the family’s farm.

We understand child labour as both a symptom and a self-perpetuating cause of poverty. Households in cocoa growing areas face the realities of rural poverty, and parents may put their children to work, and keep them out of school, to reduce labour costs on the family farms. But this can, in turn, deprive their children of the chance to develop and advance themselves, and so entrenches the household’s impoverishment for subsequent generations. Our experience shows that most of the children who work on cocoa farms do so within their family structure. However, this does not mean they are not exposed to hazards, and, beyond these situations, illegal and exploitative practices do also exist. Specifically, when children, even with their consent, are taken from their families to be exploited in cocoa farming this constitutes human trafficking.

We believe that these complex problems can be effectively tackled through the collective, coordinated and consistent efforts of all parties involved, directly or indirectly, in the cocoa supply-chain.


Any work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children ; work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity ; work that interferes with children’s education by limiting their school attendance, forcing them to leave school prematurely, or obliging them to combine schooling with excessive and arduous work tasks.


View our Glossary of Child & Forced Labour Definitions here.




ICI upholds the International Conventions that promote child rights and that outlaw these labour practices, as well as the relevant supporting national laws. Not all work done by children is classified as child labour. For instance, children carrying out light, non-hazardous tasks on the family farm for a limited period of time, under supervision, and without compromising their schooling, is considered as acceptable child work.

This type of work is often necessary for the welfare of many families in West African rural societies. It also contributes to children’s development, providing them with skills and experience that help them prepare for their adult farming life.

By contrast, activities such as carrying heavy loads or using chemicals are considered as “unacceptable forms of child labour”, because they are physically dangerous for children.

Child trafficking and any work undertaken by children in bonded labour are extreme and criminal forms of child exploitation.

View our comparative analysis of child labour decrees in Ghana and in Côte d’Ivoire here.

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