With funding from the Norwegian government through NORAD, Rainforest Alliance and its implementing partners, with Community Based Organizations (Edmark Rescue Foundation/ Ark Development Foundation) and community volunteers have held the first in a series of joint quarterly district dialogue at Anyinam in the Eastern Region. The meeting with government agencies and cocoa companies/goldmining associations is to advocate for fulfilment of their commitments towards eradicating forced and child labour in their local communities.
Rainforest Alliance is an international NGO that envisions a world where humans and nature thrive in harmony. By the nature of their work, Rainforest Alliance (RA) is at the intersection of producers, companies, and consumers and bring them together to tackle amongst other things, issues on climate change, deforestation, livelihood and most importantly advancement of human rights in the landscapes where they work. Rainforest Alliance work both to transform business practices and government policy, as well as promote the rights of partner communities within certification system and sustainable development initiatives.
According to the senior project manager, beyond certification, the organization commits to supporting tackling child and forced labour because of the people the organization regularly comes into contact with. As a result RA launched a US $5 million Africa Cocoa Fund to support farming communities implementing the RA standards across West and Central Africa. In Ghana, part of the fund will support establishment of community-based child protection systems across the Ashanti region and will focus on protecting local children from hazardous farm work and supporting them to stay—and succeed—in school.
What’s at Stake
In the words of Mrs Joyce Poku-Marboah, the consolidated gains in child labour over the last two decades have been hit by a downturn of events with alarming figures that indicate that there is an increase of 8.4 million children in just over 4 years as published by ILO and UNICEF. Due to the impact of COVID-19 which saw schools shut down around the globe, an additional 9 million children are at risk of child labour.
She also laid emphasis on the fact that there is a difference between child work and child labour and not every work a child gets involved in is child labour. Child work is a positive participation of children in an economic and non-economic activity, which is not detrimental to their health or mental and physical development.
She made it clear that not all child work on farms is harmful. In a position that is shared by the Country Director of Rainforest Alliance, Mr. Kwame Osei Boateng, safe and age-appropriate tasks undertaken out of school hours, and on a parent’s farm can be a great way for children to learn important skills. “The line is crossed, however, when children perform hazardous work that is likely to harm their health or limit their education” he said.
Mrs. Joyce Poku-Marboah highlighted that producing countries (Ghana inclusive) and consuming countries (Europe inclusive) have raised a lot of concerns about this menace and are working seriously towards preventing, identifying and eradicating child labour in cocoa, gold mining and other sectors.
She said the government of Ghana and COCOBOD have implemented a number of interventions and policies that are geared towards eradicating child labour such as the school feeding program, the LEAP program amongst others. Dr. Albert Arhin, a consultant on the project, indicated that most chocolate companies and governments have developed or strengthened their supply chain policies and management systems and have joined initiatives that aim to address social issues, such as poverty and underdevelopment, which contribute to the perpetuation of child and forced labour in the cocoa supply chain. Yet, commitment to ensure the successful implementation of such plans and initiatives remains difficult
She said over the past four months, community representatives in 40 communities across four Districts in Ghana have consistently observed/followed up on interventions being implemented by government and companies to identifying, preventing, tracking, remediating and eliminating cases of child labour and forced labour in the cocoa and artisanal small-scale gold mining sector. The community groups she said intend to advocate for by presenting their concerns, issues and demand further actions and commitments from government and companies who have set out to implement actions on child labour in their communities. The event was therefore organized to have a dialogue amongst communities, cocoa companies/gold associations and government in a process’s towards demystifying the complex problem that is caused by a complex interplay of social, economic, legal and cultural factors that span across the individual household, community and national and international levels.
She concluded by saying “when government and cocoa/goldmining companies are able to fulfill their planned commitments, it would make it easier to achieve the objective of eradicating child labour from cocoa and goldmining sectors. It is anticipated that these engagements will enable government and companies to act and commit to their own plans, strategies and activities designed to eliminate child labour from these communities.”
The event was organized as part of the project dubbed “Tackling Forced and Child Labour in Ghanaian Cocoa and Goldmining “Ye Ne Mmofra No Nti”. The project seeks to prevent, identify, and address forced and child labour, and ultimately improve the socio-economic resilience of the vulnerable people in communities. The project is being funded by the Norwegian Government through NORAD and implemented by Rainforest Alliance, International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), and Solidaridad West Africa.
In a plenary after group discussions, community representatives presented their concerns about interventions being implemented at the community level to eradicate child labour. They also advocated for inclusion in discussions that leads to choice of interventions by companies and government that will best meet their needs and make an impact. Government representatives and cocoa companies, committed to continue with awareness raising and other interventions including remediation of children involved in or at risk of child labour. It is anticipated that these engagements will enable government and companies to act and commit to their own plans, strategies and activities designed to eliminate child labour from these communities. It was expected that by the next quarterly meeting, more would have been done at the community level by government and stakeholders in cocoa and goldmining.
Dr. Albert Arhin and Mrs. Joyce Poku-Marboah stressed the need for collaboration among institutions and the communities as no single institution can win the war against forced and child labour due to its complex nature that makes it a shared responsibility. The meeting brought together representative from the Atewa East District Assembly, COCOBOD, Olam Food Ingredients (Ofi), and Federated Commodities (FEDCO), religious leaders and educationists who are all duty bearers in the fight against forced and child labour.