By Abigail Yeboah
Concerns about the use of children in Ghana cocoa and mining sectors have become widespread. In 2015, 91.8% of the children working in the cocoa and the mining sectors were found to be involved in a form of hazardous work. To address this situation Rainforest Alliance, with support from NORAD, International Cocoa Initiative and Solidaridad Ghana, have launched “YEN NE MMOFRA NO NTI”, meaning for the sake of our children project. The project focuses on tackling forced and child labour in Ghanaian cocoa and gold mining sectors. The launch was also used to introduce the project to key stakeholders and to also seek commitment and support of all stakeholders in the implementation of the project.
Ghana, like many other countries, is confronted with the problem of child labour. The Ghana child Labour survey 2003 estimates that at least 40% of Ghana’s 6.36 million children are economically active and that about 1.27 million of them are in child labour. The consequences of the work children do at the cocoa and gold mining sectors are well known. The situation is a concern to the government and other stakeholders who took action through the formulation of the Ghana Child Labour Monitoring System and 2 consecutive National plans of Action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. The work done in previous years, informed the Rainforest Alliance, NORAD, International Cocoa Initiative and Solidaridad Ghana, to undertake the ‘YEN NE MMOFRA NO NTI” Project. The project will tackle head on issues of forced and child labour in the cocoa and gold mining areas.
The Country Director of Rainforest Alliance, Kwame Osei, said the number of children forced into child labour has risen and had become a very critical issue in Ghana’s development agenda. He said due to the impact of COVID-19, 9 million children from ages of 15-17 have been at risk in the agriculture and mining sectors. He said although many have been registered in schools due to poverty, they are rather engaged in hazardous work for survival.
“The production of many commonly traded goods such as coffee, cocoa, tea, banana, palm oil, gold and timber are 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.”
He further explained that “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 is to tackle its root causes, which ranged from poverty, weak law enforcement, traditional norms and lack of access to quality education.”
“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 resolutions.” Mr. Osei lamented.
He called for a combined effort by stakeholders in strengthening the government’s initiatives to identify, monitor, prevent and address issues of forced and child labour in the cocoa and mining sectors.
Meanwhile, the Deputy CEO of COCOBOD, Dr. Emmanuel Opoku welcomed the project and urged Rainforest Alliance to ensure that the project addresses challenges of child labour. He pledged the support of COCOBOD to the project.
The Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights & Administrative Justice, CHRAJ, Joseph Whittal, noted that in areas where the right interventions are in place, issues of education and social protection, indications show positive trends with a significant record in the reduction in child labour. Mr. Whittal identified the landscape approach as the best tool to tackling child labour. He urged the public not to use customs, culture and tradition as a justification in tackling of child labour.
The Norwegian Ambassador (NORAD) and Funder of the project, Madam Ingrid Mollestad said economic hardship in the COVID-19 era has worsened the situation for the most vulnerable ones in other developing countries and Ghana is no exception.
“Therefore this situation is echoed in the gold mining sector where efforts made by the government and civil society do not appear to be sufficient to guarantee the rights of every child affected,’’
Madam Mollestad was optimistic that the YEN NE MMOFRA NO NTI project will be an effective tool to address the challenges of child labour.