Zeroing in on our approach to child labor
How have we progressed in tackling the issue of child labor? What have we implemented this year?
Barry Callebaut has committed itself to roll out monitoring and remediation systems on child labor, which means that we check with the farmer communities from whom we source whether children are working the fields, instead of going to school, or performing dangerous tasks. We roll these systems out steadily across our entire supply chain. In 2017/18 we covered 12% of the cocoa sourcing communities we directly source from. However, we know that only monitoring and remediation will not be enough, because it is not tackling the underlying causes of child labor. The necessary steps to bring lasting change, access to quality education, reduction of poverty and accountability, are eventually only possible at a community level.
….you mention child remediation and prevention of child labor, what does this mean exactly?
For example, supporting families to send children to school is an effective method. School kits and birth certificates are needed for children to go to school, so must be accessible. Additionally, so-called remedial schooling, or bridging classes, is a recognized method to funnel children who have dropped out or never started school, to get them into the formal school system. My mother was a special needs teacher so I can relate to that activity very well. An important area is continued education and vocational training for children past the mandatory school age.
We need to engage with cocoa farmer communities to prioritize a change in perception: children should to go to school, avoid dangerous tasks, and help with appropriate chores and learn farming skills for their future.
Our efforts will focus on enabling communities to implement remediation or prevention activities by themselves together with government services and NGOs. This is an area where we are cooperating with customers, governments, and NGOs currently.
A lot remains to be done to find scalable solutions in this area. Other solutions aim at avoiding the necessity for children to perform hazardous work, for example by creating mobile labor groups that can be hired by farmers instead of employing children, or mechanizing the transport of water, firewood, and food. Carrying heavy loads constitute the majority of hazardous tasks.
About Andres Tschannen:
My empirical PhD research brought me to West Africa. I ended up staying for nearly 20 years and built up two direct cocoa sourcing companies, which served as platforms for cocoa sustainability programs. One of the companies was integrated into Barry Callebaut, and laid the foundation of Barry Callebaut’s Farm Services business, which provides on credit inputs and services to cocoa farmers. We also pioneered some very relevant innovations for West African cocoa farmers, such as mobile banking and agroforestry. I occupied a managing role in global cocoa sustainability operations, and now, I am in the role of Partnerships Lead in the global sustainability team.