Towards more effective ways to address child labour in the cocoa sector


Child labour remains a persistent human rights violation in the cocoa sector, impacting children’s physical and mental health while depriving them of educational opportunities. The cocoa sector is increasingly responding to this issue by implementing innovative programmes, targeting the root causes of child labour, such as poverty and a lack of access to quality education.

These programmes employ various strategies to alleviate poverty and boost household income, with a particular focus on increasing cocoa yields from existing farmland and encouraging the pursuit of alternative income-generating activities beyond cocoa farming, thereby reducing dependency on cocoa as the sole income source. While these strategies are associated with reductions in poverty, their core premise is that these improvements will also lead to a decrease in child labour.

A 2023 KIT study, however, demonstrated that cocoa producing households earning the equivalent of the living income benchmark have the highest child labour prevalence levels. This raises the question whether these income strategies are increasing labour demand by households and, as such, are, unintentionally, increasing the risk of child labour. Further research is thus crucial to disentangle these complex relationships and optimize the effectiveness of these programmes in reducing child labour.

KIT is putting forth a comprehensive research agenda that examines the nuanced relationships between sustainability initiatives and the prevalence of child labour from three distinct angles:

  • Sustainable intensification, labour demand and supply: This research investigates how intensified cocoa production influences labour dynamics and, consequently, child labour prevalence. In many supply chains, there is an increasing focus on supporting farm households to increase their cocoa productivity with the aim of closing the living income gap. However, GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) adoption increases the need for labour while the available labour pool is often limited, and hiring workers is too expensive. This study area focuses on the interplay between GAP adoption, yield levels, labour needs and availability, and its impact on hazardous child labour.
  • Diversifying income sources: This dimension scrutinizes the impact of income diversification with a specific emphasis on gender disparities and labour allocation within households. Often, diversification strategies target women in the household for them to increase economic empowerment and decision-making power. However, women perform unpaid labour within the household. Additional income-generating activities might therefore result in time poverty and a shortage of labour within the household and substitution of women’s labour by child labour. Consequently, it is imperative to delve deeper into the relationship between intra-household labour allocation and child labour prevalence, with a specific focus on gender.
  • Access to (quality) school facilities: This last track utilizes geospatial analysis to evaluate how school infrastructure and accessibility intersect with school attendance and child labour prevalence. As many cocoa sector programmes are conditional on children going to school, it is important to know to what extent we can expect children to comply with this requirement, when many school facilities do not meet the quality requirements and distances to the nearest school are often too far. Through a geospatial analysis, KIT aims to gain insights into the current situation and how that influences school attendance and child labour prevalence.
  • Our research aims to provide valuable insights to practitioners within NGOs, the cocoa industry, and government officials working in the cocoa sector. These findings will support ongoing efforts to address child labour.

    In addition, we evaluate the impact of innovative new ways of addressing child labour, such as through conditional and non-conditional cash transfers.