A leading global food manufacturer, Nestlé, has expressed its readiness to pay cocoa farmers in West Africa and elsewhere to keep their children in school instead of using them as child labourers.
Following child labour backlash, Nestle proposes to pay African cocoa growers to keep their kids in school.
It is understood that Nestle’s resolution followed a series of backlash that chocolate makers have faced in recent times, for knowing or inadvertently encouraging child labour through the use of cocoa beans farmed/processed by children.
Various groups, including customers, investors and even governments have expressed displeasure over this trend which is most common in West Africa.
Cocoa farmers and child labour
As you may well know, Ivory Coast and Ghana are the world’s leading cocoa producers.
Farmers from these top cocoa-producing countries are known to use their children as labourers, thus most of them keeping them away from school.
Cocoa-farming communities face immense challenges, including widespread rural poverty, increasing climate risks, and a lack of access to financial services and basic infrastructures like water, health care, and education.
These complex factors contribute to the risk of child labour on family farms. Together with partners, including governments, and building on a promising pilot programme, Nestlé’s new initiative sharpens focus on these root causes of child labour.
Nestle’s new income accelerator initiative will take care of the issues confronting farmers by addressing the income gap problem which forces most farmers to use their children as labourers.
Addressing this issue would also help Nestle to ensure that all of its cocoa beans are purchased through ethically sourced means.
Commenting on the development, Nestle’s Chief Executive Officer, Mark Schneider, explained that the new initiative “focuses on the root causes for child labour and the living income gap farmers and their families face”.
“Our goal is to have an additional tangible, positive impact on a growing number of cocoa-farming families, especially in areas where poverty is widespread and resources are scarce, and to help close the living income gap they face over time,” said Mark Schneider.
“Building on our longstanding efforts to source cocoa sustainably, we will continue to help children go to school, empower women, improve farming methods and facilitate financial resources.
“We believe that, together with governments, NGOs and others in the cocoa industry, we can help improve the lives of cocoa farming families and give children the chance to learn and grow in the safe and healthy environment they deserve,” Mark added.
In the meantime, the initiative has received a nod of approval from notable figures such as the Prime Minister of Ivory Coast, Patrick Achi.
He described the initiative as a welcome development, stressing that “we must at all costs and by all means to deal with the root cause of the ills on which we all agree, which is the income of the farming population”.
Do note that farmers can only qualify to receive payment from Nestle if it has been certified that they’ve enrolled their children in schools. Other factors will also be considered.
Nestlé S.A. is a Swiss multinational food and drinks processing conglomerate corporation headquartered in Vevey, Vaud, Switzerland.
It is the largest food company in the world, measured by revenue and other metrics, since 2014.