According to the Fair Labor Association (FLA) report, published today (August 12), Nestlé and its partner, the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), were helping 639 children at risk of exploitation Africa’s Ivory Coast cocoa plantations. The report is the first to be published since the company joined the FLA.
However, results of 10 FLA unannounced monitoring visits to five cooperatives participating in the Nestlé Cocoa Plan (NCP) in the region revealed four children under the age of 15 working in cocoa fields. NCP farms represent 20% of Nestlé’s total cocoa supply chain.
One case of forced labour involving a worker from Burkina Faso believed to be under the age of 15, who had been working without pay or documentation since he was 13, was discovered.
Seven other workers aged 15–18 were also found working on the farms and farmers interviewed explained almost all the children and young adults in their families performed farm work. That included picking cocoa, transporting wet beans and cleaning the land.
Not attending school
Some of the children were found not to be attending school and FLA assessors found farms had no age verification and documentation system and no system for removing working children from farms.
The FLA also found several health and safety violations at the farms and claimed almost all the directors on the boards of the cocoa farming cooperatives were men, with women severely under-represented.
However, Nestlé, which sources cocoa beans to make chocolate for products including Kit Kat and Quality Street, was taking steps to address these concerns, the FLA report said.
For example, it had developed a Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation System, now serving 10 cooperatives in 2013. It said it aimed to roll this out to all of its 57 cooperatives by the end of 2016.
The food manufacturing giant has pledged to train staff on health and safety issues and to implement plans to increase female representation.
The company had helped more than 200 children obtain the birth certificates they need to enrol in school and was providing school kits and uniforms to their families, it said.
It is piloting projects to enable mothers of children at risk of working on cocoa farms to generate their own, independent income – for example, by growing and selling cassava.
The company is also looking at creating apprenticeship schemes and vocational training and literacy courses for children above school age.
It is also setting up groups who will be employed by villages to undertake high-risk activities, such as cutting trees and spraying crops. That would cut the risk that these sorts of tasks were taken on by children, it said.
“Nestlé is providing cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire with the practical support and means to get their children into the classroom,” said Sandra Martinez, the head of the company’s global chocolate and confectionery business.
“Identifying exactly what is happening, and where, represents an important first step to resolving the issue of child labour in cocoa farming,” she added.
Nestlé said it had been working with ICI to raise awareness of child labour issues for the past two years.
Nestlé announced at the beginning of this month that, under its NCP it would be able to secure 100% sustainable cocoa by the end of 2015.