Almost 800,000 minors labour in agriculture sector

Almost 800,000 minors labour in agriculture sector
  • canker endemic in cocoa, mining and fisheries sector
  • Rainforest Alliance moves to curb menace

About 770,000 children are engaged in child labour within Ghana’s agriculture value chain, particularly in cocoa production where 92 percent of these minors are exposed to at least one form of hazardous labour, the United States Department of Labour has said.

Conversely, data from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) have also estimated that child labour is a significant problem in Ghana and is affecting almost two million children in sectors including general agriculture, mining and fisheries.

Global statistics

On the global scene, a recent report published by the International Labour Organisation and UNICEF estimates that child labour numbers have risen to 160 million worldwide – an increase of 8.4 million children in just four years. An additional nine million children are also thought to be at risk due to the impact of COVID-19, which saw many schools shut down around the globe.

UNICEF said what has not changed is that most of these children work in agriculture. Out of the 160 million child labour cases globally, 112 million children are in agriculture; with the Fund emphasising that over three-quarters of all children aged 5 to 11 in child labour work in agriculture.

But the Rainforest Alliance (RA), an international non-profit organisation working at the intersection of business, agriculture and forests to make responsible business the new normal in Ghana, has indicated that tackling forced and child labour in the country’s cocoa and goldmining sectors is a shared responsibility for all.

RA maintains that not all children’s work on farms is harmful, and that safe and age-appropriate tasks – out of school hours – on a parent’s farm can be a great way for children to earn pocket money and gain important skills.

The organisation however said the line is crossed when children perform hazardous work that is likely to harm their health or limit their education. This, according to RA, is rather on the increase as more children are out of school due to the rise in forced and child labour.

In the gold sector, Human Rights Watch said the prevalence of worst forms of child labour (WFCL) in Western, Central and Ashanti Regions sees thousands of children working in artisanal gold mines in hazardous and sometimes life-threatening conditions. Most children found in child labour are aged 15-17 and live with their extended family members. Many are registered in school but attend irregularly.

‘Yen ne mmofra no nti’ project

Speaking to the B&FT at the launch of ‘Yen ne mmofra no nti’ – a project by the Rainforest Alliance to tackle forced and child labour in Ghanaian cocoa and goldmining sectors – Country Director of RA, Kwame Osei, said while progress has been made in the production of many commonly traded goods, cocoa, bananas, palm oil, gold and timber, some systemic challenges such as child labour, forced labour and gender inequality, just to mention a few, still exist in these supply chains.

Kwame Osei said the ‘Yen ne mmofra no nti’ is funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and designed to increase awareness and engage 12,500 vulnerable individuals including children, youth, men and women to ensure economic resilience.

The project will also ensure the uptake and implementation of gender-sensitive best practices of 120 selected cocoa cooperatives, companies and gold mining associations covering over 300,000 members by end of 2024.

“At the end of the project, cocoa companies, traders, cooperatives, farmers and goldmining companies must put measures and policies into their operations to tackle worst forms of child labour, both in Ghana and Ivory Coast, while vulnerable individuals and groups become resilient in the face of recruitment to undertake child labour,” Kwame Osei disclosed as some of the expected outcomes when the project is fully implemented.

Stakeholders’ commitment

Deputy CEO of COCOBOD, Dr. Emmanuel Opoku, lauded the project and emphasised that COCOBOD is strongly against child labour and abuse in any form, and is committed to forming collaborations for fighting and halting the menace. He said COCOBOD from 2022 will unveil the cocoa marketing system to track and record production and trading in the entire cocoa value chain to monitor abuses.

Regional Director of Solidaridad West Africa, Isaac Gyamfi, however observed that the results obtained over decades of forced and child labour interventions – policies, sustainability programmes, donor and government support etc. – are less desirable compared to the volume of resources and funds committed to address them.

He said child labour interventions have been fragmented, less synchronised and implemented in pockets of localities, adding: “Child labour data, research and survey outcomes have minimally focused on solution orientation, with more emphasis rather on discussing the occurrence and prevalence.

“As a solution-oriented organisation, Solidaridad believes that there is a need to use solution-based research and data to inform the development of tailor-made remediation interventions in order to address child labour. We should also refocus child labour surveys and research to reflect the socio-economic and cultural perspectives,” he said.

Norwegian Ambassador to Ghana, Ingrid Mollestad, said the project is necessary for many reasons, including the globally increasing phenomenon of forced and child labour. She said the hardships brought by the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the situation, making Norway take the decision to prioritise projects which lead to an improvement in livelihoods devoid of human right abuses.

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