COOPAGA and CAFHS were the first cocoa cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire to join the UTZ program in 2009. Since then communities have established a school and medical center on site, and farmers and their families have received training and awareness raising on child rights. The question is, has it had an impact on child labor? Let’s see what the farmers say.
Kouassi Kouamé, a farmer at CAFHS cooperative, says, “Thanks to the UTZ program, I make profits. This helped me build my house and send my children to school. My biggest source of satisfaction is my home.”
“I can also put money in a bank account and save up, then withdraw money when necessary. For example, this means that I can enroll my children in school on time. Before, the children sometimes returned to school late because we had to wait for new money to come in to get the children to school.”
Monitoring committees and new schools
Ahogo Yao Constantine, managing director at CAFHS, explains how the cooperative has improved standards. “In integrating the UTZ certification program, our goal was twofold,” he says. “First, improve the quality of Ivorian cocoa, which was a challenge at the time. Second, improving the living conditions of the producers. As individuals first, thanks to improved production yields; and then collectively, through social programs that certification allows us to achieve, such as improving access to safe drinking water, health centers and schools.”
“One of the battles we’re winning is the awareness of all our partners on the scourge of the worst forms of child labor, for which we have set up monitoring committees,” he adds.
Time to read with children
In nearby COOPAGA cooperative, children are also being taken out of the fields and attending school on a more regular basis.
“I have four children and all of them go to school, thanks to the UTZ program and premium,” says farmer Silue Bakary. “In fact, the project helps us a lot in the education of our children, and in health care. Through UTZ certification, we have the college at the cooperative, which allows us to educate our children here on site and no longer have to send them to the city. And in my spare time I can sit together with my children and read with them.”
“There is also a health center that allows us to take care of people here in the village, and an ambulance to evacuate our patients in an emergency. As a parent that gives a lot of peace of mind.”
Back in school: a good feeling
Most of the farmers here today worked in the fields themselves as children, but instead of their own children following in their footsteps, they are getting the education their parents missed out on.
“I never had the chance to go to school, we didn’t have enough money back then,” says farmer Diomanadé Adama. “I have four children, because of the UTZ program I send them to school, and that’s a good feeling.”
The issue of child labor is complex and needs an intense, collaborative approach to be tackled. What we do see is that UTZ certification leads to a better income for famers, reducing the need for children to support their parents in the fields. Therefore more children are being sent to school.
Child labor communication toolkit
Read about our approach to child labor and download our child labor communication toolkit. You’ll find the farmer testimonials above (and more) ready for use in your communication – as well as infographics and easy-to-read materials on the topic.