Society generally tags incidences of children helping on cocoa farms as “cocoa child labour”. A practice that is cruel, but rampant in cocoa. Several interventions on a global scale aim to reduce and eventually eradicate the practice.
Notwithstanding, in another article I discussed reasons that show that not all incidences of children on cocoa farms are child labour. The article explains that in some cases, claims of cocoa child labour are misinterpretations. This is because some children actually help out with duties on the farm. Ghana stands to benefit from managing children who help on cocoa farms. Stakeholders must therefore concentrate on effectively and safely harnessing the social and economic benefits of children helping on cocoa farms.
There is a clear distinction between cocoa child labour, which exploits children for monetary gains, and children helping out on cocoa farms. The latter positively engages children. It churns out social and economic benefits for cocoa communities and the entire nation.
There are socio-economic benefits of children helping on cocoa farms. These far outweigh the likely incidences of hazards we associate with the phenomenon.
In actual fact, cocoa communities in Ghana can scarcely boast of suitable infrastructure to promote livelihood of children. Infrastructure such as schools and facilities for extra curricula activities in sports, music, arts, and other artisanry skills are minimal. Conditions in schools can barely compare to what pertains in urban communities. This creates a huge disadvantage for children, not because they sometimes help on cocoa farms. Beyond helping on the farms, they have little opportunity to develop. However, the future of the cocoa sector lies in the hands of these children. Since they are mostly the children of farmer owners, farm hands, and migrant laborers.
Apprenticeship training on cocoa farming skills
Nonetheless, farming, including cocoa farming has the capacity to bridge the gap. It offers opportunity to harness the exploratory skills of children. Society benefits as children receive training when helping on farms. Here, duties must focus on apprenticeship training which embeds relevant skills in children. Emphasis must not be on present monetary benefit.
The industry is actually battling the deep disinterest of wards of cocoa farmers’ in the trade. A situation which needs a remedy. Children on cocoa farms if well managed will be an antidote to this trend.
Hence, the recommendation is to introduce a ‘child development’ farming activity with well managed and coordinated intervention programs. Program may include academic curricula on cocoa farming skills for schools in cocoa communities. Both children and adult farm-hands must recognize and embrace the benefits of such a program. It is a herculean task, especially with monitoring and evaluation but it is very achievable.
Apprenticeship training will occupy children beyond school hours. Hence minimizing idleness and its likely negative consequences. It also offers opportunity for children to build a future in farming.
Minimizes youth migration to urban communities
Helping out on cocoa farms builds a sense of responsibility in children at an early age. The alternative is idling about in communities with little vision for the future. Idleness most often leads to migration to bigger towns and cities in search of non-existent jobs. The resultant effect is living and selling mundane items on the streets of our cities. Evidences of such menaces abound on the streets of Ghana. Not to mention the negative societal vices they promote. Vices such as truancy, stealing, armed robbery and prostitution, etc. are gradually crippling Ghanaian cities. This is as a result of rural migration of children and the youth.
Promoting formal education in rural communities is ideal. Another positive intervention is to encourage children to help out on farms outside school hours. Farming activities keep them focused and occupied. Hence it minimizes the desire to migrate and the exposure to street vices.
Channels energies of children Into Productive activities in cocoa sector
Also, children who help out cocoa farms in Ghana are mostly wards of farm laborers, tenant farmers, or wards and relatives of owner farmers. There are rare incidences of child trafficking in the sector. Actively engaging in duties on farms channel energies of children towards productive purposes.
In a related matter, international sports icons endure decades of tough training to churn out as experts in their disciplines. Coco Gauff is the youngest tennis titlist at fifteen (15) years. An achievement that involves not less than a decade of physical. social and mental training to attain. The robust training is similar to a form of child exploitation. However, the world barely criticizes their actions, but rather applauds their feats. Similarly Floyd Mayweather wore his first boxing gloves to train at age seven . Serena Williams also started tennis training at age three.
Likewise, Ghana’s story is no different. Taking up duties on cocoa farms at an early age helps to develop young people in rural communities, though it has shortcomings. Thus, I recommend work under a coordinated program that is well monitored and evaluated to manage performance and the likely shortcomings. The practice holds huge benefits for cocoa sustainability.
Succession planning in Cocoa
The average age of the Ghanaian cocoa farmer is fifty-five (55) years. A matter of concern for a country where the average life expectancy is sixty-two (62) years. This is also in an environment where cocoa is produced by means of manual labour. The usual trend is for many young people to abandon cocoa communities in search of more attractive jobs. A few may return to buy or inherit lands for cocoa farming much later in life. The question then is who takes over cocoa farming in the situation where young city migrants do not return to their communities to take over the farms? Even if they return, what skill and knowledge do they have to engage in farming?
Overtime, Ghana is losing thousands of tons of potential cocoa to youth migration. A more efficient system must consider sustainability of cocoa, by getting the hands of young people occupied on the farms at an early age. This will promote ease in succession planning. It will further boost sustainability in cocoa production.
Children helping on cocoa farms is beneficial to the Ghanaian society. As in all practices, there are defects which ought to be managed. In order to gain the optimum benefits from the practice.