Planned Livelihoods for Economic Development & Global Equity

GHANA'S CHILD LABOUR IN THE CITRUS SECTOR AT A GLANCE


In Ghana, the citrus industry involves over 60, 000 growers. There are a number of big and small plantings scattered throughout the central, Eastern, Ashanti and parts of the Volta regions. The absence of severe droughts in these areas has allowed citrus orchards to develop and reach high yield potentials.

Thus, citrus farming has for some time since the hey days of State Farms, occupied a key place in Ghana’s rural economy especially with respect to domestic income, and providing revenue to support socio-economic development. For many rural families in citrus growing communities, citrus provides the main source of employment, cash for non-food expenditures including education, health, and housing and community development initiatives.

The orange, Lime and lemons in all these regions are traditionally produced without any agrochemicals. Most of the farmers however, use agrochemicals for their vegetables, cocoa and maize, thus bringing to the fore, hazards associated with agrochemicals application and handling. These farms are managed mainly by family members, hired labor during clearing, weeding and harvesting. Farmers are fast converting their unproductive cocoa fields into citrus farms because of emerging certification systems and their premium markets.

Harvesting Periods

Whiles conventional methods of harvesting require plucking and allowing fruits to fall from trees, the emergence of certification systems in the sector require that a sack is hanged on the shoulders from behind and the fruits plucked from the tree and dropped gently but directly into the sack. Either way, the involvement of children in the citrus production chain is becoming more and more pronounced and must be discouraged. This correlation is very much obvious when lateness to school and daily absenteeism from school during peak periods is closely observed.

  • Normally, oranges have three harvesting periods
    • Early season oranges mature in August to October
    • Mid season oranges mature in late November
    • Late season oranges mature in February to March
  • Meanwhile, some areas currently have two seasons as is indicated below just like cocoa often because, farmers unable to irrigate their lands and also, due to poor maintenance practices:
  • Minor season starts from April to June
  • Major season starts from August to November?

The fact that farmers do not get commensurate returns for their toil is also often advanced as a reason for the poor farm maintenance. These factors invariably, compel a heavy over reliance on cheap child labour in the short term.

 

The demand for lemon, lime and orange peels also require the use of more cheap labor by citrus peel processors. Many such processing sites abound in the rural citrus producing areas in Ghana. And where monitoring is lacking children are engaged in heavy load carrying, slicing the fruits with sharp implements, and long hours spent in the sun hauling and drying the citrus peels at the expense of going to school.

 

A child carrying heavy load of oranges in a processing site

 

Children pushing wheel barrow and carrying citrus peals for drying at a processing site

 

Labor Practices

Much of the labor activities in the citrus industry in Ghana are done by hand. Pruning limbs and suckers is a tedious process performed with pruning shears and occasionally hand saws for larger limbs.

One of the most important hand operations within the industry is an obvious one: harvesting.  And if not pulled well, as the fruit can be damaged and rendered unfit for market. Almost all citrus varieties in Ghana are generally hand-pulled harvest. However, injuries caused by repetitive strains can not be ruled out.

 When spraying pesticides, operators are not properly fitted with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and laborers in the orchard do not respect re-entry periods and or restricted entry interval (REI).

Common injuries within the citrus industry are those common to many farming operations. Cuts, bruises, abrasions, and insect stings (wasps, caterpillars) are common. Occasionally, workers slip and fall due to loose footing in soft soil, a hole from the hilly and undulating fields etc. Most of these injuries cannot be treated on-site.

These children here in a village in KEEA District, fetch water and sell to farmers who are applying chemicals at the expense of going to school.

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