Jacobs Foundation joins forces with confectionery industry tackling child labour

A joint venture has been launched between the Jacobs Foundation, a global youth development organisation, and major players in the chocolate sector to create a national action plan tackling child labour in Ivory Coast.

The government-backed initiative includes collaboration from key firms including Cargill, Mars, Ferrero, Barry Callebaut, The Hershey Company, Mars Wrigley, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, Olam International, features a 10-year Education Sector Strategy and has introduced a Multisectoral Plan for Nutrition.

Central to its goals will be the creation of two capital funds totalling CHF 150 million, to promote early childhood learning and promote opportunities for young people in Ivory Coast, and address the root causes of enforced labour affecting young people in the country. Investigations by international civil groups have reported that there are in the region of 2.1 million children working within the cocoa industry across Ghana and Ivory Coast.

The issue of child labour within key cocoa markets has been repeatedly raised on a global level, including at the last World Cocoa Conference held in Berlin (pictured), in which children from German schools gathered to protest regarding the conditions that many youngsters have found themselves in within Ivory Coast and other prominent cocoa growing nations.

According to the Jacobs Foundation, a decisive milestone has been reached on April 15, when the Council of Ministers of the Ivorian government committed to an agreement laying the ground for this unprecedented public private partnership.

Furthermore, the foundation noted that in the face of the challenges associated with COVID-19, this public private partnership becomes more important than ever. To protect its population from the threat of coronavirus, the Ivorian government has closed schools.

While important from a public health perspective, this measure will significantly impact learning and development opportunities of Ivorian children. Learning hours per child will simply be lost. The World Bank further warns that the Coronavirus will push Sub-Saharan Africa into recession, which would place increasing pressure on farmer incomes, and research shows that when household incomes decrease, child labor tends to increase.

“This is a unique opportunity to come together and rigorously address the root causes of child labor and promote quality education in a systemic manner”, says Fabio Segura, Co-CEO of Jacobs Foundation. “All partners strongly believe that only joint forces will ultimately bring sustainable change.”

Two initiatives
The first of the two funding initiatives, the Child Learning and Education Facility (CLEF), aims to reach 5 million children and 10 million parents in cocoa growing areas and beyond, focusing on access to quality primary education.
The second initiative, the Early Learning and Nutrition Facility (ELAN), is designed to reach 1.3 million children below the age of 5 and their caregivers, providing quality services and training in early childhood development and nutrition.

“Collaborative philanthropy is critical to addressing the greatest challenges facing vulnerable populations. We are proud to stand alongside the Jacobs Foundation, the government of Côte d’Ivoire and the corporate sector in support of advancing quality education across the country”, says Phyllis Kurlander Costanza, Head UBS in society and CEO UBS Optimus Foundation.

Blueprints for effective public private partnerships
Côte d’Ivoire leads the world in the production and export of cocoa beans for the manufacture of chocolate. Yet, a 2015 survey found more than 1 million children were performing hazardous work in cocoa production in Côte d’Ivoire. In rural Ivorian areas, nearly 30% of primary school-aged children are out of school, while the percentage rises to 50% for children of lower secondary school age (Côte d’Ivoire MICS 2016).

Among those who are in school, the majority do not reach the minimum expected level in reading and math. This poor school performance is largely attributable to low quality education, but also to suboptimal development in the early years of children’s lives. With a national rate of 30% of stunting, which is especially dangerous for young children, Côte d’Ivoire is among the most vulnerable countries in
Sub-Saharan Africa. Without better early childhood development and access to quality education, these children are at higher risk of child labor.

Around the world, it is estimated that more than 150 million children may be affected by child labour. The CLEF and ELAN initiatives represent a multi-stakeholder partnership that is seeking a sustainable solution to this situation in Côte d’Ivoire. As the Jacobs Foundation added, such schemes as its latest mission could serve as blueprints for effective public private partnerships to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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