Five benefits community service groups can bring to farming communities
One way to support cocoa farming communities and tackle child labour is by training and equipping community service groups. These groups can assist farmers and entire communities, while also benefitting children. Such communal groups were common in cocoa-growing areas in West Africa but the practice has declined in many places, meaning that when they are revived, their support is likely to be welcomed. Here we share five benefits that these labour groups can provide to cocoa-growing communities. The International Cocoa Initiative supports the set-up, training, and equipment of community service groups through our community development work and as part of Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS).
Tackling child labour
One of the underlying causes of child labour is a lack of affordable labour in rural farming communities. Farmers may not be able to afford to hire labour or labourers may simply not be available. This can heighten the risk of children becoming involved in hazardous tasks. Community service groups can offer farm services at either a low cost or on credit. When service groups are connected to farming cooperatives farmers can benefit from their assistance as part of their annual contribution (see below). This can allow farmers to access or hire additional labour and reduce the risk of children becoming involved in farm work.
“During the lean season when there is no cocoa harvest, but a lot of farm management activities to be done, I would have to spend my whole time in the farm with my children,” Abena Latebia, a cocoa farmer from Ghana, explained. “Without the labour groups with the cooperative, I probably would not be a cocoa farmer now.”
Supporting cocoa farming cooperatives tackle child labour
Community service groups can also help cocoa cooperatives in the fight against child labour. A cooperative is a formal group or association of farmers. When registered, cocoa farmers can gain access to training and materials, supporting them to improve their farm practices and productivity. They have a vital role to play in raising awareness and finding solutions to child labour. Cooperatives are also key partners in ICI’s Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems. With service groups at hand to support their registered farmers, they can offer a ready solution that can reduce the risk of children carrying out hazardous tasks.
Helping farmers to improve productivity
Equipped with tools and trained to carry out a variety of tasks on cocoa farms, from pruning to the application of pesticides, service groups can also help farmers boost the productivity of their farms. Many farmers do not have access to specialised equipment, such as mist blowers, which can impact the management of their farm.
“My farm looked well-tended and healthy after the group worked on it,” said Tetteh Kwesi, a farmer from the Abease community in Ghana who benefited from the support of his service group. “It has blossomed beautifully.”
With more productive farms, farmers like Tetteh can potentially increase their income, helping to tackle poverty which is an underlying cause of child labour.
Empowering community development
Community Service Groups can also become involved in other activities that can benefit children and their entire community, such as development projects and by supporting women implement Income Generating Activities. When his community was constructing a new school block, Kouassi Kouamé, President of the Service Group in Affiakounou, Cote d’Ivoire, and his team helped by providing manual labour. His group also donated materials to the school by using money from the group’s savings. Other community service groups help in similar ways. The Abease service group saved part of their earnings and reinvested some into the construction of teachers’ accommodation in their community. In this way, the service groups can help build infrastructure that can contribute to the protection of children.
Providing employment opportunities in rural communities
Service groups are often, but not exclusively, comprised of young adults and are only open to those above the age of 18. They can provide opportunities to earn extra income and receive training in good practices in cocoa farming in rural areas where access to jobs can be limited. This can in turn develop rural communities by supporting local economies and avoid young adults having to leave cocoa communities to look for work.
This article is part of a series highlighting what works to tackle child labour (more information here). At ICI we are working with our partners and the wider cocoa sector to ensure that these activities are scaled up as part of child protection systems to reach all those in need. Find out more in our 2021-2026 strategy.