By Thomas Nsowah Adjei
Child labour in Ghana is a very complex issue as it is difficult to determine what type of labour constitutes child labour especially in farming Communities. These days, the act cuts across the country. Child labour refers to the exploitation of children through any form of work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school and is mentally, physically, socially and morally harmful. Incidentally, the canker had assumed a global dimension that prevented children from fulfilling their potential.
As the world celebrates the children in the midst of difficulties and challenges some go through, it must be a matter of concern to all. It must be noted that there must be a clear distinction between what constitutes child labour especially in societies where children are obliged to learn and follow footsteps of their parents. Therefore it is not out of place to see doctors, lawyers, engineers and so on having their children picking their parents’ profession at ease, however when a farmer’s child follows him to farm to learn farming as a trade it is crafted as child labour.
The developed world especially our trading partners in cocoa have somehow succeeded in denigrating the cocoa business by attaching child labour and in most cases threatening to reject the cocoa because they associate the cocoa industry with child labour. There is nothing wrong seeing a child of a cocoa farmer following him during vacation to the farm and subsequently appreciating the cultivating of cocoa. It is therefore not strange that cocoa farming, a business that holds our prosperity as a nation, is only left in the hands of the aged. The pictures that the foreign media take and portray in the western world to reject the cocoa as coming from child labour farms as most unfortunate. I don’t think any farmer will be so wicked to deprive his child of education for cocoa production.
What is significant is that it is time to take a second look at what is being termed engaging in different forms of child labour. Recently, the General Secretary of General Agricultural Workers Union, GAWU is reported to have said over 72% of all child labour cases are found in the agriculture sector and therefore called for a concerted effort in dealing with the challenge. It is not uncommon to see children weaning sand and breaking stones when they are expected to be in school. Regrettably these acts are perpetuated in the full glare of policy makers and child right organizations but focuses only on which child is being engaged in cocoa production.
The Ministry of Labour and Children Affairs with support from Japan developments agency is developing a policy document on child labour project using the Atwima Mponua and Babiani-Anwiaso-Bekwai municipal assemblies as a pilot. The outcome will be a living policy document for other countries to emulate. Children are our future, everything possible must be done to protect and prepare them for quality education but we must be careful not criminalize cocoa farming but do what is humanly possible to let the children take over, after all literate farmers stand the chance of engaging in productive farming as Ghana is an agrarian country with cocoa as a leading foreign exchange earner.