Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Claims Of Child Labour On Ghana Farms Overblown - Dr Afriyie

12:22:00 PM

Reports of Ghana using child labour on its cocoa farms are grossly exaggerated and not a true reflection of practices in cocoa growing areas, the Western Regional Minister designate has said.

When he appeared before the Appointments Committee of Parliament (ACP) yesterday, Dr Kwaku Afriyie said he doubted the findings of researchers from the West on the countrys cocoa farms and insisted that the label only gave Ghana a terrible name and should not be accepted.

Child labour is not a big issue in the cocoa industry in Ghana now. You have to segregate the cultural dimensions and our social set-up from what people label as child labour, he said.

Dr Afriyie, who is himself a cocoa farmer with 16 farms in the Western Region, said children accompanying their parents to the farm without engaging in any strenuous work but to learn the operations of cocoa farms had been how knowledge was passed on from generation to generation and that did not amount to child labour.

He, however, admitted that the campaign against child labour had drawn attention to things that were terrible for children in times past.

Ghana makes progress

Over the years, there have been a number of interventions in the cocoa sector concerning the use of child labour, particularly in Ghana and Cote dIvoire.

Research conducted by the Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, in 2015 established that Ghanas efforts at stopping children from engaging in hazardous work were on course.

It established that in 2013/14, the number of children in child labour in cocoa production decreased from 43.9 per cent to 41.1 per cent, with 96 per cent of them attending school in 2013/14, as against 91 per cent in 2008/09.

The research, which covered the 2008/09 and 2013/14 cocoa seasons, noted that against a backdrop of population growth and increases in cocoa production, Ghana managed to reduce the percentage of children exposed to hazardous work not only in cocoa but also other areas of child exploitation.

Whats the evidence

To give credence to the widely held opinion of child labour on the countrys cocoa farms, the Deputy Ranking Member of the ACP, Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak, pointed to a research that showed that children and young adults aged between nine and 17 were exposed to hazardous occupational exposure, including strenuous work, pesticide, sprains, lacerations to the head, rashes and lack of safety practices.

But Dr Afriyie would not back down and stated that in research empirical evidence was important.

Where was the site When was the study conducted How many children were captured in the study And so on. I am not denying that you will not get cases of child labour, and for that matter child abuse, in any society, he said.

He insisted that the label was stigmatising, as child labour had its own cultural dimensions and should not be lumped together.

He said given the way things were going, if the nation did not exercise caution and accepted the label of child labour on its cocoa farms, the next generation would not have the requisite knowledge to take over the countrys cocoa industry.

The minister designate said what constituted strenuous work needed to be properly defined, otherwise even school athletics would be classified as strenuous work.

We have to sit down with them and go into the nitty-gritty and definitions. I know that they have the market because virtually no cocoa is consumed here. They may even be doing that to hold the prices of cocoa down, he said in reference to the countrys donors and Western countries that are important of child labour on cocoa farms on the continent.

Dr Afriyie stated that a more important research would be to look into the matter of children who had been injured by sharp tools on farms and the academic performance of children in cocoa-growing areas.

Blessed & cursed

On the development of the Western Region, he said the demand for development was not self-centredness, as the region contributed significantly to the development of Ghana through its resources, including cocoa, oil palm, timber, rubber, gold, manganese and bauxite, but its roads remained some of the worst in the country.

He observed that although the region was blessed with natural resources, it was also cursed, as the resources did not reflect in its development.

He condemned the practice of labelling roads being constructed in the region as รข€˜cocoa roads because it showed that funds that should go into the pockets of farmers as higher cocoa producer price were instead being used for road construction.

He said during his tenure, he would concentrate on empowering rural women, ensure that roads in the region were improved and empower young people in remote parts of the region to put premium on education.

Beyond perception

The Ranking Member of the ACP, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, urged the nominee to go beyond his perception of child labour on cocoa farms and interrogate many of the findings, as the findings were starkly opposite to your position as of today.

War on galamsey

With galamsey reducing the countrys water bodies to muddy pools, the Chairman of the committee, Mr Joseph Osei-Wusu, urged the nominee to declare war on all those destroying the countrys water bodies.

When the nominee for the Ashanti Region, Mr Simon Osei-Mensah, took his turn, he pledged to ensure that all projects started in the NDC regime were completed.

He also promised to ensure that Lake Bosumtwi, the countrys only natural lake, received a facelift with the construction of a reception centre, restaurants, artwfact centres and entertainment centres around it.

Other nominees who appeared before the committee were the Eastern and Greater Accra Regional ministers designate, Mr Eric Kwakye Darfour and Mr Ishmael Ashitey, respectively.

By Ghana Leaks Blog

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