Digitalization and Child Labour in Agriculture

This paper is the product of a collaboration between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Wageningen University and Research (WUR) to explore the potential application of innovative technologies to improve data collection and risk estimation of child labour in the cocoa sector. In particular, it assesses the potential role of blockchain technology and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in collecting and sharing data on cocoa-growing areas in Ghana, and how this could contribute to monitoring and ultimately preventing child labour in those areas. During an inception mission undertaken by FAO in Ghana, open consultations with various stakeholders in the cocoa sector led to the identification of a number of Key Data Elements (KDEs) to inform the design of a blockchain system, with the objective to facilitate real-time, cost-efficient and collaborative monitoring of the risk of child labour in cocoa-growing areas in Ghana. WUR was commissioned by the FAO to further explore the potential application of blockchain technology and GIS to monitor selected KDEs related to the root causes of child labour in Ghana. Despite decades of interventions since the ratification of the Harkin-Engel Protocol in 2001 to eliminate child labour in the cocoa sectors of Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, the latest progress report shows child labour in this sector is increasing rather than decreasing (Sadhu et al., 2020). This trend is concerning, given the detrimental effects of child labour on children’s lives, education and health and the perpetuated cycle of poverty as a result. To break this trend, it is necessary to expand and improve current methods of tracking the incidence of child labour (monitoring) and explore more sustainable ways to support rural families to keep children out of child labour (prevention).To that end, technology, digitalization, and digital innovations have a role in poverty reduction and improving living standards in developing countries, however, political and socio-economic problems can hinder these technological fixes. With smallholder cocoa producers being the most vulnerable actors within this value chain, the implementation of technological monitoring systems is not a clear-cut route. Participation and engagement depend not only on the perception of the advantages to farmers and community, but also on issues that impact the adoption and use of information and communication technologies (ICT). For example, availability, affordability, and literacy and effective use.

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