The role of cooperatives in the fight against child labour
Farming cooperatives play an essential role in the organisation of cocoa supply chains and in the implementation of Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems. They can also improve traceability, support farmer empowerment, and lead to certification. The International Cocoa Initiative works with cooperatives to identify cases of child labour in their supply chain, to raise awareness of the issue among member farmers and to find the best suited solutions to address identified cases. Labour groups are one way cooperatives support their farmers. They can also represent opportunities to tackle child labour and raise awareness of the issue. ABOCFA, a cooperative in Ghana, is one such example.
The management of ABOCFA put in place interventions to promote the welfare of their members, both on the farm and in their homes. One of these interventions was the formation of labour groups. Young people from the local area make up these groups. They receive training in good agronomic practices and equipment to provide their services to farmers who are members of the cooperative. They do so at no cost or with subsidized fees. With its partners, ICI supported cooperatives to set up 213 labour groups in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana in 2019.
First and foremost, these groups help farmers on their farms. They carry out a range of tasks on farms. Some of these are technical tasks, such as pruning, which farmers themselves may not be comfortable undertaking. They also assist with the spraying of cocoa crops, which many farmers are not equipped to do safely. Their ability to assist farmers improve productivity and farm safety is important, but so too is their capacity to reduce the risks of child labour.
Filling a labour gap
A lack of available labour and the high cost of local labour are among the causes of child labour in Ghana.
When the ABOCFA cooperative began, each farmer had to find their own way of getting assistance on their farm. The majority resorted to labourers and family members, including children, to carry out tasks on their farms. Most of the elderly farmers, whose children had moved to the surrounding towns, had to work on their own farms when labourers were in shortage. This put their lives at risks and reduced the group’s productivity.
To rectify this, the cooperative began to form labour groups which provide their service free of charge to ABOCFA farmers.
Numgbe Dodzi is a member of a pruning group with the ABOCFA cooperative. Alongside his team he regularly prunes foliage from cocoa trees, allowing them to blossom fully. “None of these activities are supposed to be done by children,” he explains. They can be hazardous, even for his team who have specialised equipment and training.
Young men like Numgbe make up the 13-strong pruning team. They come from local communities and farming families that are part of the cooperative.
They have had a positive impact on tackling child labour. “The money for labourers can now go towards educating their children,” Numgbe continues. “Our work has really contributed to promoting child protection in the homes of members of the ABOCFA cooperative.”
Abena Latebia is a farmer from the Tei Mensah community with three acres of cocoa. She is also a single parent with three children. “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,” she says. With the labour group’s support, however, that is no longer the case. She spends less time on her farm and has even started an alternative income generating activity, allowing her to earn extra income to care for her children. “Without the labour groups with the cooperative, I probably would not be a cocoa farmer now.”
The presence of the labour group and the pruning team has also made it easier for the cooperative to advocate for child labour-free farming.
Through the CLMRS, awareness-raising sessions with farmers and training sessions with cooperative members around the importance of education and the hazards of child labour have inspired farmers to send their children to school. Now, there is greater awareness of the implications of child labour on both their children and their livelihoods. This has led many farmers to understand the importance of child protection in their households and the community, ensuring their children have the opportunity of better lives in the future.
Aside from labour groups, the CLMRS provides other remediation measures, such as educational support for children, in collaboration with partner companies. The system functions through community facilitators who work closely with the communities to monitor any occurrences of child labour. ABOCFA also checks up on children found to be at home during school hours.
Solutions to child labour come in many forms, and labour groups are key among them. Implementing the CLMRS in collaboration with our partners and cocoa cooperatives like ABOCFA allows more support for farmers, and more protection for children. Find out more about Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems and their impact in 2019 in our annual report.