The International Cocoa Initiative has announced an independent evaluation of its activities in Ghana. According to the press release, the areas in which the ICI has been active have seen a reduction of the exposure of children to the worst forms of child labor. In addition, the foundation reports that attitudes towards child labor have changed.
Children, for example, are no longer involved in the spraying of chemicals. Since most spraying in Ghana is done by government employed spraying gangs, that seems to be a small achievement. A more common violation, the carrying of heavy loads is also down. Overall, that’s good news. But until the actual report is released in July, we won’t be able to assess the scope of this progress.
In the meantime, the information coming out of Ghana continues to highlight the need for action. Ghana Broadcasting Corporation reports that illiteracy among girls in cocoa growing areas remains high. Although 92 percent of boys and girls attend school in cocoa growing areas, 52 percent of girls cannot read or write. And the Ghana Chronicle reports that almost 45 percent of the children working on cocoa farms are girls.
More importantly, according the Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Welfare, Mr. Antwi Boasiako Sekyere, ten percent of the children in the Asante Akim North District were engaged in hazardous labor. The minister and a number of other politicians appealed to the residents of the district to end the practice of child labor.
That’s a noble admonition, but child labor isn’t the result of misguided parents. There are obvious structural forces that play a role. And the Chief of Dwease, Nana Owusu Banahene, urged the government to provide resources that allow children to learn marketable skill. A library was also on the Chief’s wish list.
Politics, as always, it taking its toll. According to another report in the Ghana Chronicle, the new government seems to be trying to replace the cocoa spraying gangs with its own sympathizers. Apparently, over 400 sprayers have been retrenched already. I can only hope that, in the interim, the slack is not taken up by children.