Report from Tom Allen, Projects and Policy Manager, Trading Visions.
Trading Visions and Kuapa Kokoo have collaborated on an educational project with young people from several schools in cocoa farming communities in Ghana for the last six years. This has taken place through ongoing interaction with their schools and through regular “Kids Camps”.
The “Kids Camps” are big gatherings of children from different schools, many of them leaving their villages for the first time. They learn about useful everyday issues like nutrition, health and girls’ education, as well as bigger picture concerns like Fairtrade and the chocolate supply chain. At the last Kids Camp, we focused on child labour, with around 70 young teenagers taking part in a facilitated discussion on the subject. The facilitators began with legal rights, distinguishing between unacceptable “child labour” and acceptable “child work”, then took care to listen to and respond to the children’s concerns.
The children challenged the idea that they or anyone else was in a position to dictate their rights to their own parents. They queried the clear cut criteria of everyone under the age of 18 being prohibited from using machetes or being involved with spraying chemicals, which are used to protect the notoriously delicate cocoa trees from pests and disease. One child stood up and said: “It is normal for us to use the cutlass.” Everyone seemed to agree tacitly that the 18-years-old cut off point for using the cutlass was fairly impractical. There was a very productive discussion about how the children might go about “educating their parents about fertiliser and fungicide chemicals.
The context of a child-focused Kids Camp at which the children were encouraged to speak out, after months or even years of work building up their capacity and confidence, meant that the facilitators responded to them as real social individuals, negotiating actively with their parents and peers as best they could. This suggests a more subtle reading of children’s rights that respects what the children themselves actually think, might be a productive approach to tackling child labour issues in cocoa farming.
For the full version of this post, and three further posts on the issue of children and chocolate from different perspectives visit the Trading Visions website.