Results from independent evaluators assessing the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI)’s efforts to eradicate abusive child labor practices in Ghana reveal that the programs are working. The evaluation team, consisting of professional, external evaluators, representatives of the communities, local districts and ICI’s local partners, amongst others, found that in ICI- supported cocoa growing communities “there is a significant change in attitudes and behavior, combined with a reduced exposure of children to hazardous labor.”

The ICI reports that in the 250 communities where it’s present in Ghana as well as the Ivory Coast, “…most children no longer spray cocoa farms or carry heavy loads while local schools report increased enrollment and improved attendance.  In fact, some communities go so far as imposing fines on parents whose children are on the farm when they should be at school.”

It’s been  seven years since media accounts shook the cocoa industry by revealing child labor abuses in West African cocoa-growing regions. The outcry prompted a broad-based partnership between non-governmental organizations (NGOs), trade unions and major cocoa processors and chocolate manufacturers to eradicate child labor, thus creating ICI.

By sensitizing cocoa-growers to abusive and dangerous practices while enabling them to plan how best to protect their children and their livelihood, ICI says it is changing the way cocoa is grown and bringing about “long-term, sustainable change for cocoa-growing communities.”

Working with 14 local NGO partners who speak the native dialect, ICI has built ties and established strong linkages between communities, local authorities and the administrative and political leadership. To date, the effort has reached 615,000 people and has had a direct impact on 217, 215 community members regarding child labor, ICI asserts.