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The International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) has declared 2025 as the year to eliminate child labour from the cocoa industry. Within Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, the ICI plans to cover 540,000 cocoa-growing households. 

Two decades ago the International Labor Organisation (ILO) created the Child Labor Monitoring Systems (CLMS) which was then adapted for the cocoa industry. Today about 25% of supply chains related to the worlds biggest producers – Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana which sounds like a small number for the length of time the systems have been available.

Now, the ICI and the World Cocoa Foundation want to see that scale and have set a goal to cover 100% of these countries output by 2025. On the face of it, those numbers seem ambitious given it has taken 20 years to get to 25%, can the remaining 75% be covered in just 4 years? We hope so, and certainly the motivation to make the change now exists.

A study commissioned by the Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa aims to create a clear operational definition of terms and define best practices. To do this ICI mapped the system to the cocoa sector in effectively a GAP analysis.

The results are in, and they show that to implement a CLMS successfully, it must be able to achieve four core objectives:

  • Raise awareness on child labour and resulting harm amongst farmers, children and members of the wider community.
  • Identify children in child labour through an active monitoring process, using standardized data collection tools.
  • Provide both prevention and remediation support to children in child labour, and others at risk, and document the support provided.
  • Follow-up with children identified in child labour to monitor their status on a regular basis until they have stopped engaging in child labour.

The interesting take-away from this is that the objectives by definition, move the process outside of the scope of the definition of the tool. What I mean by this is that a Child Labor Monitoring System infers a passive reporting activity. What is being presented as a clarification of standardised objectives here involves action.

This is probably a good thing, but is it time to call it something else? From a practical point of view, a passive monitoring system without intervention is not going to reduce instances of child labour, so it’s a pernickety observation.

I do, however, hope there are better-defined metrics that underpin the objectives, which as they stand, do not meet the criteria for good measurement. You may have heard that a good metric is SMART. That is to say Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Repeatable and Time-based.

So an objective like the first one “Raise awareness on child labour and resulting harm amongst farmers, children and members of the wider community.” misses several of those SMART characteristics.

This isn’t to say they don’t exist elsewhere in the approach – I’ve not read the study and so my comments should be taken in that context.


  • Nick Baskett


    Nick Baskett is the editor in Chief at Bartalks. He holds a diploma from the Financial Times as a Non Executive Director and works as a consultant across multiple industries. Nick has owned multiple businesses, including an award-winning restaurant and coffee shop in North Macedonia.


  1. Do we find out why child labor exist among the poor farmers( however all farmers are poor in Africa), why only cocoa? Are we looking at other value chain such as Oil Palm, coffee, Cassava, etc? Don’t think their exist a child labor in the household chores?
    I have come to realize the cocoa industries are more concern about child labor than other agricultural sector value chain. As private sector service provider, we face the challenges of advocacy daily. In one of our training sessions on child labor, a farmer said “do you really want to eradicate child labor and if yes, then increase the farm- gate price of cocoa, remove middle buyers, provide student aids to all cocoa farmers children at the age of 5 years to college. Why student aid not scholarship because cocoa farmer children cannot be scholar in Africa. Tell ILO (International Labor Organization) to introduce and implement this Aid program not only industrial partners due to conflict of interest. Hahaha!

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