Working with ABOCFA to eliminate child labour
Isaac Vifa,ICI Field Associate and Steven Ashia, ABOCFA Manager
Tackling child labour in cocoa is a joint effort. The social dynamics involved push for the adaption of a multi-stakeholder approach to facilitate the establishment of structures towards the prevention of child labour in cocoa communities. At ICI, we work under the principle of shared responsibility and encourage the collaboration between all concerned parties – governments, industry, civil society, communities and farmer’s groups. One of these groups is ABOCFA, a cooperative of cocoa farmers in Suhum in the Eastern Region of Ghana. They are well known for the production of high quality organic and Fairtrade Cocoa beans. They are also the only Organic/Fairtrade Farmer’s Cooperative in Ghana. With a membership of about 700 cocoa farmers, ABOCFA has the capacity to produce 1,500 metric tons of dry cocoa beans annually.
The partnership between ICI and ABOCFA started in 2017 with funding from our member Tony’s Chocolonely. The manager of ABOCFA, Mr Steven Ashia, on how the partnership came to be:
“We realized the increasing spat of issues of child labour among our farmers could ruin our reputation and make us lose clients and needed to be addressed urgently. Capitalizing on the vision of Tony’s Chocolonely, our client, to eradicate child labour from their supply chain, we met with them to strategize on how best we can work together to eliminate child labour practices from the activities of our members. Tony’s then brought in ICI based on the work they have been doing in West Africa towards the elimination of child labour.”
The commencement of the ICI / Tony’s Chocolonely/ ABOCFA partnership saw the implementation of the Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS) targeting 696 farmers and their households. This involved the collection of data on the prevalence of child labour. Based on the data, the best remediation measures which will be most beneficial to the farmer’s household and the cooperative will be determined.
Aside from releasing the list of members to be monitored by the CLMRS, ABOCFA provided the human resources necessary to lead the day to day implementation of the project. These are the 23 Community Facilitators and Assistant Field Coordinators who are directly responsible for data collection and verification. Steven gives more details about their role in the CLMRS process and the benefits they have seen since 2017,
“We have regular meetings with ICI to discuss the outcome of the data collection exercise from the members of ABOCFA and the children involved. Working with ICI has helped ABOCFA to identify cases of child labour among our farmers. There are some common practices that we have used without knowing they can be classified as child labour. This partnership with ICI has increased our understanding of child labour.”
With their reputation as a Fairtrade cooperative, the partnership with ICI has many benefits for ABOCFA. Steven goes on to mention some of them;
“This project has been very beneficial to us as it has established our Fairtrade certification which will lead to more industry partners sourcing cocoa from us. We now have companies sourcing organic Fairtrade cocoa from us because they have heard that ABOCFA has set up child protection measures. Before the implementation of the CLMRS project in Suhum, we had low scores during our Fairtrade audits because the auditors found child labour on the cocoa plantations. This affected us as a group because it could have led to our decertification as a Fairtrade Cooperative. This could mean lower premiums for us which will translate into fewer resources to carry out cooperative activities. It could have also affected our credibility with our clients who may decide to source their cocoa from other cooperatives.”
He went on to add,
“The perception of our global partners on child labour is very different from how we perceive it in Ghana. When they hear that a cooperative is proactive in child labour elimination, they are encouraged to work with you. Aside from this, our work with ICI has also brought in sponsors to fund our work. An example is PROGRESSO from the Netherlands, who is currently working with us.”
According to the ICI Field Associate who is directly working with ABOCFA,
“The partnership between ICI and ABOCFA has been successful. The cooperative executives were involved in the selection of the Community Facilitators and Assistant Field Coordinator. They ensured that the people were qualified and had knowledge about the communities they would be working in. They make sure farmers and community members are present at awareness-raising sessions. They also involve us in their meetings and interactions with other stakeholders. This helps to promote ICI’s good practices implemented within ABOCFA and to help the cooperative to continue with the production of ‘green cocoa’.”