Fintech CEO: Big Chocolate Could Use Blockchain Technologies to Solve Child Labor Crisis in Cocoa Market

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Cocoa farmers
Cocoa farmers

A Channel 4 Dispatches investigation shed new light on claims that Cadbury is relying on child labor to work cocoa farms. The investigation alleges that children as young as ten have been harvesting cocoa pods in Ghana, while the country prohibits cocoa workers being hired under the age of thirteen. Mondelēz, parent company of Cadbury, offers a sustainability program, Cocoa Life, which shares its indicia on product offerings. Its website says that “[n]o amount of child labour in the cocoa supply chain should be acceptable.”

“This has been hotly debated for two decades. Chocolate companies have long promised to rid their reliance on child labor. One of the many challenges is that the vast majority of the world’s cocoa beans are produced on small family farms. Many times, when we think of farming, we think of Big Agro — but that’s just not the case when we’re dealing with cocoa,” said Richard Gardner, CEO of Modulus, a US-based developer of ultra-high-performance trading and surveillance technology that powers global equities, derivatives, and digital asset exchanges.

In response to the investigation, a Mondelēz International spokesperson said, “We’re deeply concerned by the incidents documented in the Dispatches programme. We explicitly prohibit child labour in our operations and have been working relentlessly to take a stand against this, making significant efforts through our Cocoa Life programme to improve the protection of children in the communities where we source cocoa, including in Ghana.”

“An explicit prohibition is only as good as the governance policing it. Given the enormous number of small farmers participating in the harvest, it is difficult to monitor the situation. But, we’ve seen blockchain technology which can ably handle these kinds of issues, especially when it is augmented with artificial intelligence. It could be a total game changer in the way chocolate manufacturers interact with their farmers,” said Gardner.

Modulus is known throughout the financial technology segment as a leader in the development of ultra-high frequency trading systems and blockchain technologies. Modulus has provided its exchange solution to some of the industry’s most profitable digital asset exchanges, including a well-known multi-billion-dollar cryptocurrency exchange. Over the past twenty years, the company has built technology for the world’s most notable institutions, with a client list which includes NASA, NASDAQ, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Barclays, Siemens, Shell, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Cornell University, and the University of Chicago.

A 2020 NORC at the University of Chicago study found more than 1.5 million  children to be involved in the cocoa industry in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. “As the demand for chocolate has increased, it has increased the crisis in child labor. The best way to help mitigate issues on-the-ground is to be able to use technology in a cost-effective way which actually imposes real policing of child labor. It is 2022. If we don’t deal with the issue now, when will we?” asked Gardner.

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