I last posted about a series of meetings in January involving representatives from the Governments of Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, officials of the US Department of Labor, the congressional offices of Tom Harkin and Eliot Engel and the global cocoa industry – the group which makes up the Child Labor Cocoa Coordinating Group (CLCCG). These meetings sought to address the continuing concerns around the persistence of child labor in the cocoa sectors of both Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, the two largest cocoa producing nations in the world.
During the meetings, Mars colleagues, Brad Figel, Alastair Child, Andrew Pederson and Shayna Harris had the opportunity to present Mars’ Vision for Change (V4C) program – Mars’ innovative and holistic approach to increasing farmer incomes and assisting communities to improve their living standards and address the issue of children working instead of attending school.
Our main focus in January was how Mars, through the V4C program, can support the overall mission of the CLCCG by implementing a set of interventions that will help farmers increase cocoa productivity and income and address child labor within their cocoa growing communities.
Since January, we have been more focused on how Mars V4C efforts can also support the National Plan of Action against Child Labor in Côte d’Ivoire – which was fully revised and adopted by the new government in March of this year. To this end a series of consultations were held in April and May with two new committees created in Côte d’Ivoire to address child labor. The Interministry Committee, lead by the Minister of Labor, is charged with coordinating all national efforts that address elements of the child labor issue. The Oversight Committee is charged with seeing that activities are funded and carried out in line with the National Action Plan. In charge of this committee is First Lady Dominique Ouattara.
On May 25th I, along with Moctar Sangaré of Mars and Georges Bredou of our Vision for Change team, presented Mars’ program to the Oversight Committee showing how it is aligned with the Ivorian National Plan of Action. It was demonstrated and agreed during this meeting that more than US $ 2.7 Million of our V4C investment through 2013 is acknowledged as directly addressing child labor efforts as described in the Ivorian National Plan.
This acknowledgement was documented by First Lady Ouattara and delivered by her to the CLCCG in early June. On June 22nd, formal acknowledgement of the Mars contribution to the fight against child labor was received from the CLCCG.
As holistic program that is oriented towards both family income and broader community improvements, it is important that our effort is acknowledged by the Government of Côte d’Ivoire as being in alignment with their National Plan of Action against Child Labor. As our work proceeds we are confident that we will report greater progress in helping children to avoid working in any dangerous situation and instead attend school regularly with the full support of their family and community.