Ten men from Burkina Faso were jailed in Côte d’Ivoire last week for attempting to smuggle forty children between the ages of 10 and 17 years old.
The children were earmarked for cocoa plantations and were intercepted by police along two main routes to the cocoa belt. The children were shortly returned to Burkina Faso, while the smugglers were held until their appearance in court on June 30th.
All 10 of the smugglers had pleaded not guilty to the charges, which in previous years typically attracted relatively light sentences.
Recent legislation in both the EU and UK is creating a ban on child labour in the supply chain, and now, European lawmakers want to extend that policy and have applied pressure on the worlds largest producer of cocoa to pass similar laws.
Our economy is based on agriculture, we must ensure that the products, especially cocoa and coffee, are never the result of child labour.- Deputy Prosecutor Edgar Damoi.
The coaches used to transport the children were deemed to be complicit in the activity and have had their licenses revoked as a further message to warn those who assist smugglers.
The action is welcome from a country that has seen child labour rise over the last decade, despite the efforts to stamp out the practice. However, the cocoa industry is responsible for 40% of the country’s total export earnings, and child labour is endemic in large part due to the poverty of the farmers. Without solving the underlying problem, it’s uncertain what impact the changes will have.