In some regions in the southern and middle belt of Ghana, cocoa farming and gold mining occur in the same communities. This means that efforts to tackle child labour and forced labour need to be coordinated across both sectors, to ensure that individuals at risk in one activity are not transferred to the other. ICI, Rainforest Alliance and Solidaridad, with funding from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), are working together to address and prevent child labour and forced labour in a number of these communities.

The aim is to strengthen the ability of the government and local authorities to identify, prevent and address child labour and forced labour, to support supply chain actors to put in place good practices that help tackle child labour and forced labour, and to help communities themselves to recognize child labour, forced labour and the risks associated with them, in addition to helping them to hold government and supply chain actors to account. The project will directly support 10,000 households who have family members either in, or at risk of, child labour or forced labour. Support will be tailored to families’ individual needs, and will include things like support to access education, support to set up village savings and loans associations and to develop other income generating activities, technical training, entrepreneurships and stronger links to government services.  Find out more about the project.

Strengthening national and local support and services

A key aspect of the early work under this 3-year project has been to identify existing support services provided by national and local authorities that are already available to communities or individuals at risk. This might include social workers, social centres or the police or judicial services.

Once existing services have been mapped, the strengths and weaknesses of the current system can be identified, and capacity building provided to improve the necessary areas.

“It is important that national and local authorities are supported to be able to correctly identify and provide adequate responses to an adult or a child thought to be a victim of forced labour, and that these responses are embedded in Ghana’s national social protection services”, explained ICI Project Manager Festus Kwame Kwadzokpo.

As part of this exercise, earlier this year, a workshop was held with government departments and relevant ministries, COCOBOD, trade unions, ILO, UNICEF, IOM, and international NGOs to take stock of the current situation on law enforcement and social service provision, identify common challenges and jointly design a strategy to address identified needs.

Mr Eugene Korletey, Chief Labour Officer from the Department of Labour within Ghana’s Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations (MELR) explained the importance of tackling forced labour in the country: Ghana has ratified a lot of conventions including ILO Convention on the Elimination of Forced Labour. Further, the laws of Ghana abhor forced labour. It’s our duty to protect workers’ rights.” For him, the project will help the Department strengthen its outreach into the cocoa-growing and gold mining communities and support collaboration with the private sector and development partners.

For Mr Mawuli Avutor, Deputy Director for Public Education at the Ghanaian Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), a national organization responsible for protecting fundamental human rights, the project will help the organization to build capacity of its members.

“We have several new districts with officers who have limited knowledge of child and forced labour and we need them to be trained all over the country. Our being part of this project will also help us achieve this major need of the Commission and enable us to handle issues of child and forced labour in the country especially in the districts,” he explained.

Human rights due diligence tools for supply chain actors

Another aspect of the project is to ensure that effective human rights due diligence (HRDD) is done by companies and cooperatives involved in the gold and cocoa sectors.

To this end, a study on the strengths and weaknesses of the different tools (including for example Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems, the Ghana Child Labour Monitoring System, Assess and Address certification tools and others) is underway to feed into the development of a new or updated HRDD tool. It is important that the resulting tool is simple, gender sensitive and cost effective to drive uptake in the sectors.

This new or updated HRDD tool will then be piloted with cocoa and gold sector companies and cooperatives, and through close collaboration with the government, rolled out to farmers and small-scale mines to support them to meet current and developing HRDD legislative requirements and best practices. 

Community level interventions

The baseline study of the project, conducted to explore the root causes of forced and child labour in these communities, revealed poverty as a driving factor. To address this, the project is adopting a women-centered approach and setting up women-only Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) in all the forty project communities. 

VSLAs are self-selected and member-managed groups that allow members to save money and access loans to either start or expand their businesses. Group members make savings that can directly improve their livelihoods, helping to make the approach unique and sustainable. In some circumstances, VSLAs can also be used to link members to the formal financial sector. The groups can also foster a sense of belonging, helping to boost the confidence and self-esteem of members, and are used as an entry point for education and awareness raising on forced labour and child labour in the project communities.

In addition, existing social protection and livelihood programmes in all the project communities and districts have been mapped, so community members can be made aware of any existing support mechanism that could be helpful.

Forced labour is defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as working against one’s will and under the threat of penalty, and for children this is defined as working under the threat of penalty from someone other than the parent or working as a direct consequence of their parents being victims of forced labour themselves.

The ILO defines child labour as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity. Not all work done by children is child labour but when activities are hazardous, such as carrying heavy loads or using sharp tools, working too many hours, or the work interferes with a child’s schooling, this is considered child labour and is not allowed.