The following answer is just a short summary. To go all the way on the important question on child labour, we formally monitor it on each personal visit of our team members.
Since we source directly from farmer and indigenous communities we are closely involved with over many years, we intimately know their realities and can say with absolute confidence that Original Beans chocolates are 100 percent free from child labour. But what exactly does 100% child labour free mean? According to the ILO, “The term ‘child labour’ is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.” It further says: “Not all work done by children should be classified as child labour that is to be targeted for elimination. Children’s or adolescents’ participation in work that does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their schooling, is generally regarded as being something positive.” (http://www.ilo.org/ipec/facts/lang–en/index.htm (29.12.2015))
Child labour in cacao harvesting mostly takes place in West Africa, where more than 70% of all cacao comes from (http://www.laborrights.org/industries/cocoa (29.12.2015) In the anonymous, untraceable and cheap-labour situation of the large-scale cocoa industry, even child slavery has been well documented (see The Dark Side of Chocolate https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Vfbv6hNeng)
In contrast, the circumstance of families and their children in Original Beans cacao farming and harvester communities are more comparable to the situation in European agriculture one or two generations ago, when children participated in farming to help their parents – to an extent that did not affect their health and personal development.
In a survey on the Original Beans Virunga project in Eastern Congo, commissioned by the UK Department for International Development, it was confirmed that from all involved farmer families, the vast majority of the children between 7 and 18 attend school – contrary to their parents that in most cases have not attended school. The survey also reveals that about half of the children aged between 5 and 18 work for an average of 3.5 hours a day after school, including field work, household helps and caring for goats.
The Virunga example shows very well what our aim is: We want to empower the cacao farmers we engage with – by providing skill trainings and fair payment. Thereby, we enable them to send their kids to school and open up new possibilities for their future.