A coalition of philanthropic partners and companies in the cocoa and chocolate industry have joined forces with Cote D’Ivoire to support its strategic objectives to combat child labor.

The Ivorian government, the Jacobs Foundation and the UBS Optimus Foundation, along with Barry Callebaut, Cargill, Chocolonely Foundation, ECOM, Ferrero, The Hershey Co., Mars Wrigley, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, Olam Cocoa and Touton, intend to jointly provide seed funding to launch two pooled funding facilities with a target capitalization of 150 million Swiss Francs ($153.8 million) to promote effective learning and early childhood development in Côte d’Ivoire. To reach the target capitalization for the two facilities, additional stakeholders are invited to join the coalition.

The Child Learning and Education Facility (CLEF), the first of the two funding initiatives, aims to reach 5 million children and 10 million parents in cocoa-growing areas and beyond, focusing on access to quality primary education.

The second initiative, the Early Learning and Nutrition Facility (ELAN), is designed to reach 1.3 million children below the age of 5 and their caregivers, providing quality services and training in early childhood development and nutrition.

The Ivorian government has developed a National Action Plan to Combat Child Labor, has launched a 10-year Education Sector Strategy and has introduced a Multisectoral Plan for Nutrition to develop its human capital and tackle the root causes of child labor. The CLEF and ELAN initiatives complement the government’s efforts.

Côte d’Ivoire leads the world in the production and export of cocoa beans for the manufacture of chocolate. However, a 2015 survey found more than 1 million children were performing hazardous work in cocoa production in Côte d’Ivoire. 

In rural Ivorian areas, nearly 30 percent of primary school-aged children are out of school, while the percentage rises to 50 percent for children of lower secondary school age (Côte d’Ivoire MICS 2016). Among those who are in school, the majority do not reach the minimum expected level in reading and math. 

This poor school performance is largely attributable to low-quality education, but also to suboptimal development in the early years of children’s lives. Without better early childhood development and access to quality education, these children are at higher risk of child labor.

Around the world, more than 150 million children may be affected by child labor. The CLEF and ELAN initiatives represent a multi-stakeholder partnership that is seeking a sustainable solution to this situation in Côte d’Ivoire. These initiatives could serve as blueprints for effective public-private partnerships to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.