The Rainforest Alliance, a non-governmental Orgainisation, has launched a Project to tackle forced and child labour in the cocoa and gold mining sectors of the country.
The three-year project, dubbed: “Yen Ne Mmofra no Nti,” will be implemented by the Alliance together with a consortium of Civil Society Oganisations, namely: Solidaridad and the International Cocoa Initiative, with funding from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.
The Project was launched in Accra by Mr Ernest Berko, the Deputy Director for Policy Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, on behalf of the Minister.
He cited various portions of the International Labour Organisation’s Convention, which was against the worst forms of child labour and abuses and urged the public to uphold the legal provisions with Ghana being a key signatory to the global legislations.
Mr Kwame Osei, the Country Director of Rainforest Alliance, said the project was timely in the wake of heightened discussions on child and forced labour respectively within the two sectors.
He said the objectives of the project included awareness creation on hazardous works, engagement and ensuring the socio-economic resilience of 12, 500 vulnerable individuals.
It is also aimed at ensuring the implementation of gender-sensitive best practices of 120 selected cocoa cooperatives, companies and gold mining associations covering 300,000 members by 2024.
The project will also strengthen the sector in improving services such as social protection and law enforcement delivery for proper accountability and effectiveness.
Mr Osei noted that for the first time in two decades, data showed that the number of children involved in child labour had risen, which had become a very critical issue in the country’s development discourse.
He said the production of many commonly traded goods such as coffee, cocoa, tea, banana, palm oil, gold and timber were often associated with sustainability challenges, but while progress had been made in addressing them, some systemic problems such as child and forced labour, and gender inequality had been found in many supply chains.
The study by the Alliance noted that punitive measures rather drive such challenges underground, making it difficult to detect and resolve, therefore, the best way to eliminate child labour was to tackle its root causes, which ranged from poverty, weak law enforcement, traditional norms and lack of access to quality education.
Mr Osei mentioned some of the interventions being made by the Alliance as the provision of support to small scale farmers through its certification programme, raising community awareness on the impact of child labour to change attitudes, and facilitating the setting up of community committees trained to identify and report cases to the Department of Social Welfare for resolution.
He called for a combined effort by all stakeholders in strengthening government initiatives to identify, monitor, prevent and address issues of forced and child labour in the cocoa and mining sectors.
Ms Joyce Poku-Marboah, the Senior Project Manager, said among the key implementation strategies would be to collaborate with the government to map up existing strategies, orgainse training and workshops for key stakeholders to share lessons and engage in direct advocacy as well as establish a remediation fund for survivors and link them to existing programmes such as Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) and apprenticeship training.
Mr Joseph Boahene Adu, the Chief Executive of COCOBOD, urged the Alliance to ensure that the project tackled the real issues in the sectors and pledged the support of COCOBOD.
Mr Joseph Whittal, the Commissioner on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, pledged the commitment of his outfit to the Project, and called for joint forces in working towards achieving the objectives.
He said ethical business was key to accountability and warned agriculture and mining sector operatives to ensure that in doing business they were not accused of “blood money,” adding that benefiting from the sweat of children was nothing to be proud of.