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Ivory Coast Government Denies Child Cocoa Worker Slavery

ABIDJAN - Children working on Ivory Coast's cocoa farms carry out dangerous and difficult tasks but are mostly helping their parents, according to a government study which denied accusations of child slavery on the farms.

The study, published at the weekend, responded to concerns expressed by foreign governments and international organisations which have said thousands of children are toiling on cocoa farms in the world's No. 1 cocoa producer.

A 2002 survey by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture said 284,000 children were working in dangerous conditions on West African cocoa farms, mainly in Ivory Coast.

The concerns have led to heavily-publicised campaigns by some rights groups calling for boycotts of "blood chocolate" or other goods produced by "child slaves" on West African cocoa plantations.

"We didn't find slaves on farms. We found children working with their parents," said Amouan Acquah Assouan, a senior member of an Ivorian government committee that monitors child labour in the cocoa sector.

The committee's pilot study surveyed 184 children involved in cocoa production from 120 households in three rural districts between April and July when the second smaller annual harvest is under way. It found nearly half did not attend school.

The study showed most of the children performed tasks defined as forms of dangerous child labour by an international convention and Ivorian law: carrying heavy loads, burning brush, or applying chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

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