Trade unions and producer organizations join forces to tackle child labour in agriculture

In September 2017 over 20 representatives of rural workers’ trade unions, national trade union centres, and small producers’ organizations, including cooperatives, from 13 countries in Africa convened in Ghana. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss ways in which child labour can be sustainably eradicated in agriculture and rural economy at large in line with the Sustainable Development Goal indicator 8.7 on ending child labour in all its forms.

News | 20 October 2017
The workshop that was jointly organized by the ILO and the FAO was hosted by the General Agricultural Workers Union of Ghana (GAWU). Held in Accra, it aimed at exchanging experiences to strengthen the capacities and action of participating organizations; and building linkages between them to be in a better position to eradicate child labour. The main output of the workshop was a joint statement for the IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour, to be held in Buenos Aires in November 2017.

Market stall of the fishmongers cooperative in Torkor
The workshop was opened by the Hon. Minister of Employment and Labour Relations of Ghana, Ignatius Baffour Awuah. After the opening session in Accra the participants travelled to Kpando Torkor, a fishing community located on the eastern shores of Lake Volta, the world’s largest reservoir by surface area. The ILO and partners have worked there for years in supporting the community in their efforts to eliminate child labour by promoting an integrated approach. Known as the Torkor Model, this approach includes promotion of diversified economic activities and occupational safety, provision of education opportunities for children, increasing community awareness, and supporting women’s cooperatives, among others.

A member of a cooperative smoking fish in Torkor
The women’s cooperative in Torkor focusses on processing fish from Lake Volta. The cooperative has its own market stall for selling fish, as well as a smoking facility where fish can be processed for improved preservation. GAWU is also promoting women’s participation in community affairs through supporting their involvement in trainings and other trade union activities.

Upon their return to Accra, the workshop participants discussed four key themes: organizing and outreach to combat child labour; ending family dependence on the labour of their children; negotiating for better incomes and having collective voice; and enabling wider policy frameworks and upscaling good practices. The role of cooperatives in enhancing livelihood opportunities and incomes of families was particularly discussed in relation to ending family dependence on child labour.

The four key roles for cooperatives in eliminating child labour, namely improving livelihoods, safeguarding their members to not to use child labour, supporting education and addressing child labour in the supply chains, were all considered valid, with a special focus in the participants’ discussions based on the first two roles. Financial cooperatives were considered as a useful tool to provide financial empowerment and means to diversify income sources. In agriculture, producer cooperatives were considered a potential tool for increasing bargaining power and provide access to inputs and markets. Cooperatives were also identified as a way to formalize rural workers who are in the informal economy, among others. The role of cooperatives in the plantations and outgrower operations was brought up as an underutilized option that could be further explored.

In the outcome document of the meeting, the cooperative governance model was highlighted as one option for smallholder farmers toward improving their working conditions, productivity and incomes, stating that cooperative development should be promoted in line with the ILO Promotion of Cooperatives Recommendation, 2002 (No. 193). The document also called for governments to ensure appropriate budget allocations for cooperatives to contribute to mainstreaming of child labour prevention and supporting cooperatives as tools for access to inputs and credit and this way contribute to ending the child labour dependence in family farms and enterprises. Recognised as a means of implementation for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, cooperatives have a great potential to contribute to the achievement of the Goal 8 on decent work, and specifically its target 8.7 on ending child labour.
Raising awareness on child labour elimination, Torkor