Friday, January 25, 2019

'Envoyé spécial" documentary on cocoa: Children trapped

A documentary on child labour in Côte d’Ivoire deserves being watched (in French). It was first broadcast on 10 January 2019 for the French television’s ‘Envoyé spécial’ programme.
Côte d’Ivoire, globally the biggest producer of cocoa “has really endeavoured to stop a scourge which is a perceived disgrace to the country. Schools have been built; cocoa-growers have been trained. On TV people are frequently reminded that child labour is prohibited. Unfortunately, children are still exploited’.

In the very west of the country, at eight hours of the country’s capital, near the border with Liberia, in remote forests Paul Moreira, a journalist, came across children, some of which had been working for five years... for free on illegal plantations, before they were given a small plot of land to earn just… 200 euros per year. 

The children came from Burkina Faso to the Guiglo area. They were sold by their parents for approximately 200 000 FCFA (300 euros) to work in cocoa plantations. Approximately, because, as one dealer unveils in the documentary: “Like sheep on the market, they may be more or less expensive.”

Children, some of which are still very young, head for the plantations with chemicals sprayers on their backs. They wear no protective gear — which they would not be able to pay for — while they spray loads of glyphosate to kill the weeds on the plots before the remaining trees are burned down and cacao trees are planted.  

In just one week in Côte d’Ivoire’s south-western forests, Paul Moreira “discovered all crimes which the industry undertook to stop: slavery, child labour and the destruction of nature”. Meanwhile, bags of cocoa enter the mainstream cocoa trade circuit. These bags cannot be traced because they are not labelled and in this particular case are delivered to Cargill, which resells the cocoa to big chocolate brands.

Elsewhere in Côte d’Ivoire children skip school too. Cocoa growers often lack the means to send their children to school. According to a study by the French development agency (AfD) and Barry Callebaut[1] cocoa growers earn an average 0.86 euro per day. The documentary points out that cocoa growers earned three times that much in the 1980s and raises the question: “Why not a simple cocoa price hike to stop children from working in the fields?“ 

The investigation documentary by Paul Moreira and Pedro Brito Da Fonseca is available (in French) on:

Meanwhile, most producers earn a pittance whereas big corporations continue to make huge profits. Two examples among others: Cargill reported 9 % net earnings increase year-over-year in 2018. According to the annual report of the company "the increasing earnings in food ingredients and applications in particular was lifted by outstanding performance in cocoa and chocolate"[2]. Barry Callebaut announced a 31 % rise in net profit for the same period[3]

[1] Gaëlle Balineau (AFD), Safia Bernath (Barry Callebaut), Vaihei Pahuatini, Cocoa farmers’ agricultural practices and livelihoods in Côte d’Ivoire, Insights from cocoa farmers and community baseline surveys conducted by Barry Callebaut between 2013 and 2015, Technical notes, AfD.

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