Accra, Oct.6, GNA - The use of child-labour in the production of cocoa is not widespread in the country according to two studies, Mr Kwame Sarpong, Chief Executive Officer, Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) said on Wednesday.
He said the prevalence of child labour in the cocoa sector in Ghana was not well researched as there had been only two studies so far and which have confirmed that there were children labouring on Ghana's cocoa farms and that these were mostly children of share croppers.
Speaking at a consultative meeting for community-based organisations for the elimination of worst forms of child-labour in the cocoa growing areas in Ghana, he explained that none of the studies showed documented child-trafficking in Ghana's Cocoa Sector adding, "this is not jump to the conclusion that it does not exist. There will be the need to conduct more research into issue".
Mr Sarpong said the Government realised the impact of the worst forms of child labour on national socio-economic development and was, therefore, committed to its eradication.
He said: "No nation can develop without building the capacity of its citizens. In spite of computers, its human beings who must turn natural resources into productive ventures and create wealth."
Mr Sarpong said from July 1, 2005 cocoa producing countries would have to prove that child-labour was not used on their plantations before their beans would be bought.
He said the certification had become necessary because of concerns raised by consumers globally on the use of child-labour in the production of cocoa beans, adding that buying countries would also demand what action had been taken by the producing countries on the issue of child-labour.
"Members who fail to meet the requirements would have their products rejected on the international market," Mr Sarpong said.
Mr Sarpong told the meeting that Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) was taking actions to alleviate poverty and stop child-labour in cocoa farming communities and mentioned the increase in cocoa prices, increased cocoa production through the use of improved technologies and the institution of scholarships to farmers' wards among other measures.
Mr Sarpong noted that poverty constituted the major setbacks in combating the worst forms of child-labour and urged the Government to continue in its effort to ensure that farmers were paid a fair price for their products.
He said land ownership must be addressed to ensure that caretaker farmers earned enough for them to look after their children and called for the sensitisation of communities on the importance of education. Mr Sarpong called for proper documentation of labour practices with regard to the worst form of child-labour.
Mr Sarpong also pledged COCOBOD's commitment to work closely with Ministries, Departments, Agencies, (MDAs) and Development partners and the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) to eradicate all forms of child-labour on Ghana's cocoa farms.
Mr Emmanuel M. Quaye, Chief Director of Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MOWAC), said the Ministry did not accept the allegation that exploitative child-labour was practiced in the country, especially in the cocoa growing areas.
Mr Quaye said: "In Ghana we do not have cocoa plantations as in Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon, Central Africa and Cameroon where labourers whatever their age, are hired to tend farms.
"In Ghana's cocoa growing areas children go to farm with their parents and guardians and that has led to the raising of many children to become adults and useful citizens."
He said though cocoa farmers were illiterates they valued education and did not deny their children access to it.
"The Ministry realizing that poverty is the root cause of the phenomenon of child-labour, launched the Women Development Fund to provide micro-credit to women to undertake micro-economic ventures in agriculture including agro-processing, in order to look after their children."
He said MOWAC was also collaborating with MDAs to ensure that the rights of children, who worked in agricultural, fishing, mining and construction sectors were safeguarded within the limits of national and international laws.
Mr Quaye urged international commodity firms, cocoa brokers and chocolate manufacturers not to confuse Ghana's situation with that of other countries in the West Africa Sub-Region.
Mr Addai Kyeremeh, Acting Chief Director, Ministry of Manpower Development and Employment, said the Ministry under a project dubbed: "National Child Labour Monitoring System" comprising a network of national, district and community child-labour monitoring committees, was being pilot tested in 56 communities in five districts and this would soon be replicated through out the country.
He urged stakeholders to join forces in the fight against child-labour to demonstrate that Ghana was making efforts to eliminate any perceived form of child-labour in the cocoa growing areas,
Ghana is the world's second largest producer of cocoa after la Cote d'Ivoire