Child labor monitoring and remediation is set to be rolled out across Cameroon in the first program of its kind by a cocoa company. The move forms part of Olam Cocoa’s global commitment to put children first by tackling child labor and helping more children attend school across its entire direct supply chain.

The company is working in partnership with the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and local cocoa farming cooperatives to digitally register its nearly 7,000 farmer suppliers in Cameroon and their households, introduce rigorous traceability and reporting systems, educate local communities about child labor, and set up dedicated child labor monitoring and remediation systems (CLMRS)—the first time these measures have been introduced professionally and at scale in Cameroon.

To facilitate this process, Olam Cocoa is introducing a new app to its Olam and Farmers Information System (OFIS) technology. After providing training to community leads and equipping them with a smartphone, they can begin collecting social data. This means that it is possible to identify children who are at high risk and take action much more quickly. These data insights will then feed directly into Olam’s AtSource, a digital platform that gives its customers unprecedented visibility of the supply chain of their products.

It is estimated that around 20 percent of school-aged children in Cameroon do not attend school[1]. The reasons for this are complex. The majority of smallholder cocoa farmers have small plots with low yields, which makes it difficult to earn a living income. When parents cannot afford to pay for labor to help on their farms, they may keep children at home to work the land rather than attend school.

Beyond Cameroon, the app will be used to cover nearly 223,000 farmers in 3 countries across West Africa, prioritizing those countries where the risk is highest. Last year the company launched Cocoa Compass, its sustainability ambition for the future of the cocoa sector, which aims to tackle child labor and help children access education, support cocoa farmers to achieve a living income, protect forests through an increase in tree carbon stock and lower its natural capital costs.

Richa Mittal, director, Supply Chain Innovation & Partnerships at the Fair Labor Association, said: “Olam Cocoa proactively partnered with the FLA to map the working conditions in its smallholder cocoa supply chain in Cameroon in 2019. The FLA team alongside Olam Cocoa’s local team engaged government stakeholders, civil society organisations, local community leaders, farmers, workers, and their families to understand the root causes of child labor. The findings informed Olam Cocoa’s development of CLMRS in Cameroon. The FLA will continue to independently monitor and then publicly report on the company’s efforts to improve the conditions for the cocoa farmers and their families in the country.”

Billie Elmqvist Thurén, regional child labor analyst at Olam Cocoa, said: “Access to education and freedom from child labor are basic human rights. We’re focused on making this a reality for every child and parent we work directly with in cocoa communities around the world. It’s a big task, especially in countries like Cameroon that are struggling with ongoing political uncertainty. But we need to act now to ensure we have full traceability of the cocoa in our direct supply chain, and most important of all, improve the lives of children and give them the opportunities their parents may not have had.”

[1] Data from 2017, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2019