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As a part of the “Harkin Engel Protocol,” Cargill agreed to a “comprehensive, six-point problem-solving approach along with a time-bound process for credibly eliminating the use of abusive child labor in cocoa growing.”

Over the next 10 years, the company, along with the rest of the industry, extended the timeline to address the labor violations twice, and in 2010 dramatically lowered the initial target of eliminating all child slavery to reducing “the worst forms of child labor” by 70 percent.  

But even that low bar, which still acknowledged and allowed child labor, was not met. In fact,  a U.S. Department of Labor-funded study found that the number of children harvesting cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana has increased since the commitment–not decreased.

According to the study, since the setting of that goal, “in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the prevalence of child labor in cocoa production among all agricultural households increased 14 percentage points and the prevalence of hazardous child labor has increased 13 percentage points.”

Cargill is the largest exporter of cocoa from Côte d’Ivoire and the second largest exporter from Ghana
Children found to be harvesting cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana
Increase in exposure to agrochemicals, such as pesticides, by children.

By the most recent counts, there are more than 1.5 million children harvesting cocoa in these two countries with 95% of them performing hazardous and sometimes life-threatening work. Since 2010, exposure to agro-chemicals, such as pesticides by children, increased by 17 percentage points, land clearing by 8 percentage points and sharp tool use by 7 percentage points. 

Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana together account for 65% of global cocoa production. Cargill is the largest exporter of cocoa from Côte d’Ivoire and the second largest exporter from Ghana. According to a 2019 article in The Washington Post, where Cargill is described as one of the “leading cocoa suppliers for the chocolate industry,” most chocolate today continues to be harvested using child labor. 

In July 2005, the International Labor Rights Forum filed suit against Cargill and Nestlé on behalf of six Malian children who were trafficked into Côte d’Ivoire and forced to work 12 to 14 hours a day with no pay, little food and sleep, and frequent beatings. The lawsuit charged that, for years, Cargill knowingly purchased cocoa harvested by child slaves and provided funds, supplies, training and other assistance to plantations in Côte d’Ivoire that they knew were using child slaves.

In June 2021 the Supreme Court dismissed the case, siding with attorneys from Cargill and Nestlé who argued that US courts lacked jurisdiction to charge American companies for complicity in enslaving children outside of the country.

Child Labour Evidence
Media Articles

Cargill convicted for neglecting slave and child labour at cacao farms

Brazil’s Labour Prosecution Service claimed that the multinational is responsible, since it “pretended not to see” the use of child and slave-like labour by its cacao suppliers; the company can appeal

A Grain of Truth

As plea to the Cargill-MacMillan family to show leadership by eliminating human rights abuses and the destruction of nature from Cargill’s supply chain....

Collection of analyses by other organizations

Human rights abuses and the destruction of nature documented by various other organizations since 2014...

The Mensah Family

Members of the Mensah family—Doris, Cynthia, George, and Rebecca Mensah (not their real names)—work on a cocoa farm in Ghana that directly sources to Cargill. They regularly perform hazardous tasks,...

The Nyarko Family

Rita, Grace, and Daniel Nyarko (not their real names) take their cocoa beans to a collection site adjacent to the farm where they all work—this collection site is owned and...

Brazilian State of Tocantins: A Hotspot for Cerrado Deforestation

"Soy sourced from Tocantins carries a high risk of being linked to legal and illegal deforestation. Case studies reveal that soy production in the municipalities Lagoa de Confusão and Campos...