Taking Child Protection into the Agricultural Sector

May 30, 2017

By Edward Millard, Rainforest Alliance

Agriculture is the single biggest offender when it comes to child labor:  98 million of the 168 million child laborers today are planting, harvesting, and controlling pests in the fields around the world.  India is the world’s second largest tea producer and half of all the tea grown in India comes from the northeastern state of Assam. According to a 2016 study published by Save the Children, in the tea estates of Assam, nearly 3,000 children work – of which two-thirds dropped out of school to earn money for their families.

With this in mind, a newly broadened mandate to address child labor across multiple sectors and funding from The Walt Disney Company, GoodWeave has launched a partnership with the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), a specialist standard and certification system for agriculture. SAN incorporates a range of criteria enabling workers in the tea sector to have safe and secure working conditions and decent, hygienic living conditions, and protecting the natural environment against degradation from soil erosion, water pollution and excessive use of agrochemicals.

From left: Edward Millard, GoodWeave Board Member; Nina Smith, GoodWeave; Conrado Guinea, Sustainable Agriculture Network; Beth Gottschling Huber, GoodWeave; and Scott Welker, GoodWeave.

Like GoodWeave, SAN is a member of the ISEAL Alliance, which defines best practice for standards, assurance and impact monitoring systems. The SAN standard requires the same compliance as GoodWeave with the core conventions of the International Labor Organization on child and forced labor, as well as full adherence to Indian law on employment practices.

Most of the large tea producers in Assam have become certified to the SAN standard and over the past year and a half, there has been a renewed effort by the industry to address these labor problems. By working with SAN, GoodWeave can be sure that its rigorous monitoring and inspection system will be integrated into the tea supply chain. For SAN, the collaboration offers the opportunity to upgrade the auditing procedures of its three accredited certification bodies in India, by learning from GoodWeave’s 20 years of experience in identifying and responding to cases of child labor.

Under the agreement signed in March this year, GoodWeave and SAN will work together with the independent certification bodies that undertake the inspections, develop guidelines appropriate to the tea sector and hold training courses for auditors. Once the guidelines have been field tested, they will become part of the SAN system. GoodWeave will maintain an ongoing quality assurance oversight. In addition, GoodWeave will work with other partners in Assam to develop local procedures that enable rescued children to receive education.

Working with trusted partners that are rooted in the region is the most strategic and sustainable way for GoodWeave to expand its work in sectors where we do not have established relationships in the communities and in the marketplace. Successful partnerships can scale up impact for the benefit of many more children who are deprived of an education and forced to work in global supply chains.