Design of a Blockchain-Based Smart Contract Model for Child Labor Alleviation

Design of a Blockchain-Based Smart Contract Model for Child Labor Alleviation

Senou Mahugnon Rosaire Brice (Institute of Mathematics and Physics, University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin) and Degila Jules (Institute of Mathematics and Physics, University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/IJTD.2020070104
Article PDF Download
Open access articles are freely available for download


The achievements of west and central Africa in producing more than 60% of the world's cocoa, and sub-Saharan Africa's achievement in producing 13% of the world's cotton, hide child labor. These significant levels of production often involve child exposure to issues such as a lack of education; pesticides; dangerous farming tools; work accidents; human trafficking; etc. Blockchain offers an immutable register that allows for digital transactions, smart contract creation, as well as end-to-end product traceability. The main aim of this article is to provide an intelligent contract framework that protects child labor in farming while further enlightening understandings of adoption-related challenges. This framework considers conditions that farmer associations need to satisfy and gives them a tool to improve children's welfare. A research model for the adoption of this tool has been proposed and validated through surveys in the cotton and cacao sectors.
Article Preview


The evolution of technologies has given rise to blockchain and smart contracts. The blockchain is a digital ledger that permits the creation of a distributed environment for transactions (Holotescu, 2018). Financial transactions are its first applications. Smart contracts are self-executing contracts that include agreed-upon terms from interested parties. The contracts are written in the form of program codes and are deployed over a decentralized blockchain network. Transactions are thus conducted among anonymous parties without intermediaries (Shuai et al., 2019). In Africa, blockchain technologies have started to emerge in several countries seeking to bring solutions to problems that particularly affect Africans in various ways. Though the continent lacks the infrastructure to implement the technology adequately, organizations still try to use it, given its potential to foster technological revolution on the continent (Koffman, 2019). According to Laghmari (2019), blockchain-based solutions exist and have been used in several countries, including Tunisia, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, etc.

The agricultural sector represents a vital source of income for African countries. Efforts have been made to improve sector productivity and to promote the social welfare of actors. Those efforts have paid off as, with the Ivory Coast and Ghana (in their becoming the world’s leading cocoa producers), and Benin (in its becoming the first cotton producer in Africa) (Africa Food Business [AFD], 2019; Florentin, 2019). However, these achievements are far from being ethically right, as such progress—as has been observed—has come at the significant cost of child labor, which has been documented (KellyAnn, 2019). The governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana have initiated surveys in the cocoa sector. These have revealed that many children had been engaged in unsafe agricultural work. According to Oakes (2019), two (2) million children in Ghana and the Ivory Coast are involved in cocoa production. The cotton industry faces similar issues, where children are recruited or forced to work in the industry for very low pay if any (World Vision, 2012). They encounter unfavorable conditions which include physical misconduct, exposure to dangerous pesticides, and extended work time. This situation affects the sector, as serious investors—before investing—have to comply with industry-governing rules and regulations designed to ensure an ethical supply chain (Oakes, 2019). Therefore, tackling child labor in these sectors became a challenge and is based on raising public awareness and spurring on commitments for allowing children’s growth in a safe environment.

From its creation in 2008, blockchain has been used in the agricultural sector (Duncan, 2016). Several properties—such as transparency, immutability, traceability, and security (Olson & Tomek, 2017)— have favored its adoption. Indeed, immutability properties permit data to not be erased—as the data are permanent once written. Its decentralized architecture increases security, as no one has authority over the system. Its transparency creates trust among actors, leading to a safe business environment. Its traceability is used to combat child labor but requires substantial data storage for video proof recording (Feed the Future [FTF], 2019). It also allows for the following of a cultivated production growth and its journey from the farm to the final product (Duncan, 2016; Oakes, 2019). Due to this, the blockchain properties are, therefore, the main driving forces which make it the first choice to support the use of a smart contract in solving child labor issues. As developing countries suffer from deficient physical and technological infrastructure, the adoption and implementation of the system is much more challenging (FTF, 2019). How can a lightweight application for tackling child labor in the cocoa and cotton sector be designed without using the capability of traceability? What could be the probable resistance to the adoption of this technology?

Complete Article List

Search this Journal:
Open Access Articles
Volume 12: 4 Issues (2021): Forthcoming, Available for Pre-Order
Volume 11: 4 Issues (2020)
Volume 10: 4 Issues (2019)
Volume 9: 4 Issues (2018)
Volume 8: 4 Issues (2017)
Volume 7: 4 Issues (2016)
Volume 6: 4 Issues (2015)
Volume 5: 4 Issues (2014)
Volume 4: 4 Issues (2013)
Volume 3: 4 Issues (2012)
Volume 2: 4 Issues (2011)
Volume 1: 4 Issues (2010)
View Complete Journal Contents Listing