The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) say it has reported the situation of child labour in the cocoa sector to the Police and some arrests have already been effected in the Ashanti and Western North regions.
It noted that all suspects and persons of interest are currently going through the legal process.
The Senior Public Affairs Manager at COCOBOD, Fiifi Boafo, made this known during a media interaction yesterday in Accra in response to a Joy News documentary titled “Children in Cocoa Labour.”
Children as young as ten years old were hired out to cocoa farmers for as low as GHC800 to work for a year, cultivating and carrying cocoa beans, according to the documentary.
Musah Kwabena, one of the leaders of the syndicate operating in the Western North Region, told investigative journalist Kwetey Nartey how he disguised his victims’ identity to avoid detection as he brings them to service communities.
According to him, he entices the parents of the children to win custody by promising them attractive rewards, according to him.
“I give the mother of these trafficked children GHC 100, I give the same amount to their father,” he said.
He added that he has a network of traffickers who aid him in the Northern part of Ghana, specifically Chereponi. They help him identify families with vulnerable children.
He revealed that before the transporting process, he negotiates with the security officials at the borders.
“The process is all about giving them money to bribe the officials. I give them GHC200. I bribe the police at Ghana and Togo entry points to facilitate transportation, I forge the national identity cards of these children in order to outwit the officials,” he said.
Mr Boafo told journalists that his outfit has a zero-tolerance policy for child labour because it is a crucial component of cocoa sustainability. As a result, the documentary concerns management greatly.
“COCOBOD takes very seriously any report which portrays a child of school-going age as having engaged in activities on a cocoa farm that could be construed as child labour. We and the government have taken a strong stance against child labour of any kind and condemn any act which undermines the efforts aimed at ensuring sustainability in the cocoa industry,” he said.
He revealed that the government had implemented several anti-child labour programmes and measures to clean up the cocoa business throughout the years.
These include, but are not limited to, the implementation of the child labor free zone concept, the training of labor inspectors/officers on child labor issues, the harmonisation of the Ghana Child Labour Monitoring System (GCLMS) with the Child Labour Monitoring System (CLMs), the formation and training of District/community child protection committees, the free senior high school program to keep more children in school, the capitation grant, and the school feeding programme.
COCOBOD has also implemented the mainstreaming of anti-child labour education into our extension delivery services, an anti-child labour sensitisation programme in cocoa-growing areas, and the pursuit of remunerative revenue for farmers to be able to support their families.
“Fortunately, these incidents are not common practices in Ghana’s cocoa industry. Ordinarily, one will not see farmers openly engaged in such practices when one visits our cocoa communities and that is a testament to the fact that our sensitisation efforts and interventions are yielding good results,” he said.
“That notwithstanding, the documentary shows that there are yet some criminal elements set on defying the government policy and undermining the serious efforts of COCOBOD to eradicate child labour in cocoa production,” Mr Boafo added.
He therefore cautioned persons who may be involved in these acts to desist from undermining the industry which forms the backbone of this country.
“We want to assure all stakeholders that it remains our resolve to ensure that child labour in any form within the cocoa value chain is eradicated, and we call for closer collaboration and consolidation of efforts to achieve this goal,” he said.