Report: West African Child Cocoa Workers Not Slaves

By Agence France-Presse West African cocoa plantations were employing tens of thousands of children in miserable conditions, but do not depend on slavery, a report said Aug. 6. The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture launched a study into cocoa farming in four West African countries after reports last year raised the specter of large-scale child trafficking. But the study found that poverty and low expectations were the greatest cause of child labor in the region that produces 70% of the cocoa used to make chocolate for the developed world's snacks. "The picture that emerges is of a sector with stagnant technology, low yields and an increasing demand for unskilled workers trapped in a circle of poverty," the report said. "Salaried child workers were most clearly trapped in a vicious circle. The majority of these children had never been to school and were earning subsistence wages, forced into this labor by economic circumstances." The study estimates that more than 200,000 children under 15 work on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria, but that the vast majority of them are relatives of farm owners and workers. "Because of the weakness in commodity markets since the late 1980s, farmers have been forced to cut costs by reducing expenditures and increasing the use of household labor including children," the report said. Additionally, the report found that tens of thousands of children use dangerous pesticides and machetes in their work. Only about one-third of them attended schools and wages in the sector ranged from $30 to $110 per year. The report was conducted with the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Cocoa Foundation, the International Labor Organization and African governments. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2002

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