Added: 15 February 2005
Industry Firmly Committed to “Protocol”: Will Meet Deadlines
February 14, 2005) – Efforts are moving ahead to ensure cocoa is grown responsibly, including completing development of “certification” standards for cocoa farming labour practices.
In late 2001, representatives from the global chocolate/cocoa industry signed the “Protocol” agreement, developed in partnership with U.S. Congressmen Tom Harkin and Eliot Engel, to address instances of abusive child labour practices on cocoa farms in West Africa.
To date, the industry has met every deadline established under the Protocol, and will continue to do so. The industry is committed on a long-term basis, beyond the Protocol, to responsible cocoa farming.
The industry will complete development of effective, credible standards of certification for cocoa farming by July 1, 2005 – as required by the Protocol.
These standards will form the basis for expanded farm labour monitoring and independent verification across the West African cocoa region during the 2005/2006 crop harvest, with the first certification report issued in early 2006.
Certification will tie together programmes to help cocoa farming families; cocoa farm labour monitoring, and corrective actions whenever problems are uncovered. It will be accompanied by an independent, third-party verification of the entire process. Industry representatives are working with the International Labour Organization (ILO), NGOs, organized labour and West African governments on the individual elements that will make up the certification system.
Together, these elements will both drive and measure improvements in cocoa farming labour practices.
More importantly, the industry is working with its partners in areas that go beyond the Protocol to help children and families on cocoa farms. These efforts will form the basis for meaningful, long-term improvements in social and economic conditions, long after the Protocol timetable expires.
“While independent surveys conducted in 2002 found the vast majority of farmers to be farming cocoa responsibly, it remains critically important that we address any instances of abusive child or forced labour,” said David Zimmer, Secretary General of CAOBISCO.
“Equally important, industry remains committed to driving meaningful, positive change in the cocoa growing regions of West Africa bringing improved incomes, strengthened communities, improved access to vocational education and farming assistance to thousands of small farming families."
Developed under the direction of the ILO, the monitoring test is underway in five districts in the Upper East, Ashanti and Western Regions of Ghana and the Oume region of the Ivory Coast. Local NGOs and community groups are conducting the monitoring, with visits to hundreds of cocoa farms to observe and collect information on labour practices. The test will demonstrate the ability to conduct statistically valid social monitoring in a rural, remote environment.
Representatives from the National Consumers League and the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations (IUF) are leading development and testing of the verification component.
Children at risk are being helped in a variety of ways – for example, being re-directed into schools or vocational training.
“The issues linked to labour practices in cocoa farming are some of the most profound challenges facing Africa today, issues like farmer incomes, access to education, HIV/AIDS,” noted CAOBISCO Secretary General. “They require a long-term commitment that extends far beyond a four-year timetable – and that is exactly the commitment our industry has made, and will continue to honour.”