Twenty-two people received prison sentences in Côte d’Ivoire for child-trafficking offences after sixty eight children were rescued in the region known as Soubré, which lies in the southwest of the country.
Soubré is one of the areas producing the largest quantities of cocoa for the country, and child labour has persisted despite efforts to stem it by authorities and the purchasing companies.
International pressure to get better results means the government needs more stories like this to show that child labour will not be tolerated.
Of the twenty-two people convicted, five of the leaders were sentenced to twenty years in prison, and the other seventeen offenders received five year sentences each, according to Luc Zaka, the Deputy Director of the Ivorian Criminal Police.
The severity of the sentences is hoped to act as a deterrent to others, although getting access to cheap labour is always going to be tempting while the profit margins are so slim.
Many of the children are sent in by bus from neighbouring Burkina Faso, where families will sell their children for as little as $200 on contracts lasting from 2 years or more.
The recent convictions are a result of more crackdowns by authorities, and involved around one hundred law enforcement officers over a two day period.
68 children were rescued after an raid by authorities on a number of cocoa farms – the first raids since 2014, which according to the local police chief was down to lack of funding.
Since 2019, it is believed that nearly 2,000 children have been rescued from illegal and unsafe cocoa farms says the National Monitoring Committee on Actions to Combat Trafficking, Exploitation and Child Labour.
A survey conducted by the University of Chicago in 2018 and 2019, estimated that as many as 800,000 children might be working in the cocoa industry in Ivory Coast.