The conversation around the continuous viability of Ghana’s cocoa in the international market has reached a tipping point with civil society organisations (CSOs), private sector cocoa organisations, Parliamentarians, farmers, consultants in the cocoa industry and public institutions including the Forestry Commission (FC) rallying around the adoption of Climate Smart Cocoa Standards.
They consider Climate Smart Cocoa Standards as being a bit more actionable and founded on landscape sector change, which presents a holistic package that tackles challenges from child labour to deforestation confronting the cocoa sector.
The need for this decision has been necessitated by several factors. The main factor being that the European Union (EU), which is the largest buyer of Ghana’s cocoa, recently introduced regulations to ensure cocoa production is legal and does not support child labour, slavery and deforestation.
This move follows The Netherlands’ recent adoption of a new law holding companies accountable for child labour in their supply chains, while across EU Member States there is an increase in focus on labour protections and respect for human rights in supply chains.
The issue was the focus for discussion at a recent seminar in Accra, the Ghanaian capital city, organised by EcoCare, a rights-based campaign and advocacy organization, in collaboration with Forest Trends, an international NGO that pioneers innovative finance for conservation.
The two organisations have been working together to establish the exact context of cocoa production in relation to human rights in Ghana. As part of the process, Forest Trends commissioned the TaylorCrabbe Initiative, a Ghanaian environmental legal consortium, to study human rights legislation in Ghana, with a focus on labour rights and child labour.
So, the implications of the TaylorCrabbe Study on human rights legislation in Ghana, specifically for the cocoa sector; how the new EU regulation could be taken advantage of to push the needed change in the sector; and cocoa revenues and how much is going to farmers, were the other factors discussed at the seminar.
Clement Akapame, who presented the findings at the seminar on behalf of the TaylorCrabbe Team, said that, following a review of the legal framework and reports on Labour and Human Rights in Ghana in addition to data from State Agencies on enforcement and protection of Human Rights, his Team made some conclusions.
These are that Ghana has in place adequate legal and institutional framework that addresses human and labour rights, and child labour, but the enforcement mechanisms are weak; while, there is a disconnect between policies and the practice. Also, child labour and forced labour are often found in sectors, which are either unprotected or poorly protected by labour law. Furthermore, various reports suggest the prevalence of child labour in Ghana’s cocoa sector.
Akapame, a lawyer, said what needs to be done then is to establish whether the problem of child labour is a legislative or institutional one, and also determine how best to improve the enforcement of the existing provisions to eliminate child labour.
During the general discussions, it was evident that the issue of child labour, legal cocoa and deforestation in Ghana’s cocoa sector, have to be tackled in ways that will still make the country’s cocoa attractive for her European market and not negatively impact on farmers and the economy.
A consultant with Forest Trends, Saskia Ozinga, noted in an interview that while the new EU regulation is right and very important, “the potential problem is that it could backfire and undermine the sort of development we like to see in Ghana.”
She said that, to prevent such a possibility, Ghana would have to identify the kind of trade incentives that will be needed from the EU to strengthen the nation’s development process.
This set the tone for a second day of deliberations for in-country CSOs and external NGOs to examine existing EU regulation and things happening in Ghana. The purpose was to glean lessons from the Forest Law Enforcement Governance Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT VPA), which has been in place between Ghana and the EU for 10 years now. It basically has to do with ensuring legal trade in timber products and sustainability of the resource base.
However, most of the participants were of the view that lessons from the FLEGT VPA situation might not be appropriate for the cocoa sector, because the two sectors present totally different scenarios even though they both have to with land and forests.
Consequently, the Climate Smart Cocoa Standards initiative was raised as the best option as it presents opportunities for halting deforestation, ridding landscape activities of child labour, and also addressing the core issues that confront farmers – from improving their productivity levels, offering them a better tracability system, and the incentives they need to be able to apply the standards in the field.
Besides, the initiative can provide a platform where farmers can contribution to dialogues on issues that affect them but are beyond their scope such as illegal mining or “galamsey.”
The conversation for adopting Climate Smart Cocoa started in 2011 and is embraced in the Ghana’s National REDD+ Strategy, which recognises cocoa cultivation as a major driver of deforestation and forest degradation. The Strategy identifies Ghana’s Emission Reductions Programme for the Cocoa Forest Mosaic Landscape as the approach to significantly reduce emissions from cocoa farming.
In a way, the seminar served as a response to the current global move to ensure compliance with human rights obligations, particularly as it relates to child labour, the need to address global climate change and ensure that nations fulfil their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) towards emission reduction.
In an interview, the Managing Campaigner of EcoCare, Obed Owusu-Addai, said he was satisfied with the outcome of the deliberations as it has affirmed Ghana already has a system developed to address issues at stake in the cocoa sector.
“My happiness is that at the end of day we seem to be rallying around Climate Smart Cocoa Standards,” he said.
He believes that Climate Smart Cocoa “ticks some of the boxes that we will require to make the EU regulations. It is aligning with the law; it is addressing the issue of human rights and deforestation.”
Obed, however, observed several gaps in the Climate Smart Cocoa Standards. “The bit that is lacking now is who takes ownership of it and enforces it and through which medium will it be enforced.” He said CSOs would need to further discuss these issues, “make a firm decision on it and move forward with it by having a conversation with Ghana Cocoa Board.”
The need to engage COCOBOD, is an important next step activity because, the institution is the obvious leader and owner of the Climate Smart Cocoa Standards. In moving forward with the process, human rights activists say certain key questions will have to be answered.
What are the underlying causes of child labour and human rights abuses in the cocoa sector? And why is there a disconnect between policies and practice?
Then, would the government be interested and support an initiative that would better clarify existing national and international child labour regulations and conventions that are requirements for the private sector to meet European Human rights due diligence laws?
And would the private sector support an initiative that compels them to comply with national and international regulations concerning the problem of child labour and human rights abuses in the cocoa sector?
By Ama Kudom-Agyemang