Documentary "Envoyé Spécial" (France Télévision) investigated child labour in cocoa plantations in Côte d'Ivoire

The world's largest producer of cocoa, Côte d'Ivoire has "made real efforts to stem a scourge perceived as a shame in the country. Schools were built, farmers trained. On television, there are warnings that child labour is prohibited. Yet the exploitation of children has not disappeared.”

In the West of the country near Liberia, in a protected forest located 8 hours from the capital, journalist Paul Moreira met children who had been working, unpaid, for 5 years on illegal plantations. They were then awarded a small plot and earned a little more than 200 euros a year.

Children arrive from Burkina Faso by bus to Guiglo town. They are sold by their parents for about 200,000 FCFA (300 euros) to work in cocoa plantations. Approximately, because, as a trafficker said: "Like sheep, they don’t all have the same price."

Sometimes very young children are seen on the plantation paths with chemical sprays on their backs. They spray massive amounts of glyphosate without any protection - they can’t afford it - to weed the plots, before setting the trees on fire and planting cocoa trees.

In just one week in the forest of southwestern Côte d'Ivoire, Paul Moreira "discovered all the crimes that the industry was committed to eradicate: slavery, child labour and destruction of nature." And the bags of cocoa coming from that protected area are sold through the classic commercial cocoa circuit. There is no traceability, no label and the bags are delivered to Cargill, among others, which sells the cocoa to big chocolate brands.

Elsewhere in the country, not all Ivorian children go to school. Cocoa farmers often cannot afford it. According to a study by the French Development Agency and Barry Callebaut[1], they earn 0.86 euros a day on average. The report recalls that it was three times more in the eighties and asks the following question: "What if the solution to get children out of the fields was simply to raise the price of cocoa?".

While many producers are struggling, the profits of the big groups are not. Two examples prove this point: Cargill's net income increased 9% in the 2017-2018 fiscal year. "Profits have increased in Food Ingredients & Applications thanks to the exceptional performance of cocoa and chocolate," according to the company's annual report[2]. For its part, Barry Callebaut saw its net profit increase by 31% during the same period[3]$

Paul Moreira and Pedro Brito Da Fonseca’s investigation is available on:

1. Gaëlle Balineau (AFD) Safia Bernath (Barry Callebaut), Vaihei Pahuatini, Cocoa farmers’ agricultural practices and livelihoods in Côte d’Ivoire, Insights from cocoa farmers and community baseline surveys conducted by Barry Callebaut between 2013 and 2015, Technical notes, AfD.