In a first for Mars Chocolate, the company has entered into a public/private agreement with the International Labour Organization to introduce a Child Labor Monitoring System (CLMS) in select communities in the Soubré region of Côte d’Ivoire. While Mars previously has supported the work of ILO and its division that specifically works on child labor, International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) through industry-wide initiatives, this is the first time the chocolate manufacturer has worked directly with the organization, which is considered the leading global institution to address child labor.
The program is significant because, as a community-led intervention that protects children through regular and ongoing visits to work sites and schools to collect data, it will give the communities the tools they need to prevent child labor and to address the needs of children found in child labor. Trained child protection committees will recommend remediation services for children found in dangerous work conditions and work for which they are too young or that interferes with schooling. Mars and the ILO will be working with ANADER, the Ivorian government’s agricultural extension services, to help them build their capability to address child labor violations they encounter, which means that there will be a better capacity throughout the country to address the worst forms of child labor.
The CLMS will be supported as part of the Vision for Change (V4C) program in Côte d’Ivoire. Part of Mars Chocolate’s Sustainable Cocoa Initiative, Vision for Change provides training, improved planting material and fertilizer to farmers in the Soubré region of Côte d’Ivoire. Additionally, V4C is also pursuing community development work at the village level to ensure that farmers and their families are addressing some of the social and economic challenges in their communities and are directly benefiting from the increased productivity that training and good agricultural material affords them.
The partnership is important because Vision for Change, and the Sustainable Cocoa Initiative as a whole, it taking a holistic approach to addressing child labor in the production of cocoa. Thus, the partnership is in keeping with Mars Chocolate’s efforts to address the social and economic challenges facing farmers, their families and the communities in which they live. Mars Chocolate believes that increasing farmers’ productivity will increase their income and their quality of life, which is why Vision for Change is focused on providing training, planting material and other inputs needed to increase farmer yields. We are coupling those efforts with the kind of community development work that will help the communities as a whole address their labor issues, and the partnership with ILO is a prime example of how we envision community development can help farmers improve their quality of life.