Cocoa-growing Ivory Coast draws up new plan to stop child labor

DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Ivory Coast has launched a new strategy to end child labor in cocoa farming and other sectors by raising women’s incomes and building schools, the government said on Wednesday.

The plan is more wide-reaching than previous ones and aims to tackle household poverty as the root cause of child labor, said Patricia Sylvie Yao, executive secretary of the national committee for the fight against child labor and trafficking.

“Today we have decided to expand our actions,” said Yao.

“What we plan to do is help empower women, because experience shows that when a woman has an income-generating activity, it reinforces the wellbeing of the family,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, launched its first national action plan against child labor in 2012, but the problem remains widespread in poor farming communities.

An estimated 890,000 children work in the cocoa sector, some for their parents and some trafficked from abroad, according to a 2018 report by anti-slavery organization Walk Free Foundation.

Thousands of children also work in mines or as domestic servants, said Yao.

The new action plan, the country’s third, will run from 2019-2021 at a cost of 76 billion CFA Francs ($132 million).

A cocoa industry representative said it goes further than previous strategies by tackling issues such as supply chain traceability and illegal plantations in protected forests.

“This one I think does a more intensive job of looking across the Ivorian government and taking into account what the whole of government is doing,” said Tim McCoy, vice president for country relations at the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF).

Measures such as empowering women and investing in education may not seem directly linked to child labor, but do have an impact, he said.

Ivory Coast has rescued 8,000 victims of child labor since 2012, but more needs to be done to strengthen police capacity, said First Lady Dominique Ouattara at a launch event on Tuesday.

Last year it improved efforts to eliminate human trafficking but fell short of the minimum standards, particularly regarding law enforcement, according to the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.

Government officials were complicit in trafficking and police did not have enough resources to investigate cases, said the report, released last week.

Reporting by Nellie Peyton, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit