Cocoa farmers along Ghana/Cote d?Ivoire border have appealed to the governments of Ghana and Cote d?Ivoire to establish community livelihood support projects in cocoa growing areas to enable them sustain their children in school.

According to the farmers they were forced to send their children to the farm because they did not have enough money to sustain their education.

They made the appeal when a cross border field delegation touring cocoa farms along the border of the two countries visited some of the communities in Nsowakrom and Asuopri in the Bia West District of Ghana.

The delegation, made up of government representatives, key stakeholders engaged in the implementation of child labour interventions in both countries and the media was there to share experiences, ideas and learn best practices from the activities of each country.

It was organized by the International Programme for Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), an affiliate of the International Labour Organization (ILO) as part of its efforts to strengthen national and regional actions to eliminate child labour.

To achieve that, the ILO had initiated Cocoa Community Projects (CCP) and ECOWAS II projects in the two countries aimed at eliminating worst forms of child labour among cocoa growing areas in the two countries.

In Cote d?Ivoire, the  CCP/ECOWAS II projects are being implemented in Diagobo, Niable and Daoukro while in Ghana the beneficiary communities include Asankragua, Birim South, Suhum Kraboa Coaltar, Twifo-Hermang lower Denkyira, Bia, Aowin Suaman and Juaboso districts.

The two-year project was to sensitize the communities on the need to remove their children from the farm and send them to school.

Mr Emmanuel Kwame Mensah, Project Coordinator of ECOWAS II in Ghana, said the programme was to help members of Child Protection Committee to identify, assess and rescue children working on cocoa plantations/farms in the two countries and send them to school while their parents are empowered through income generating activities to support their children in school.

He said under the project rescued children were provided with school uniforms, sandals, school kits such as school bags, exercise and text books, mathematics sets, among others while their parents were trained in record keeping, business management, best practices and livelihood intervention programmes.

?Parents will be supported with income generating activities of their own choice to generate income to sustain their children even after the project ends in those areas,? he said.

Mr Isaac Adarkwah, Headmaster at the Nsowakrom D/C Junior High School, one of the beneficiary schools in the Bia West District, commended the government and the ILO for bringing the initiative, adding that it had led to increased enrolment of students since its inception.

He said before the project, enrolment in the school was 60 but from 2011 when the programme started the school had recorded over 100 per cent enrolment.

Mr Adarkwah said more parents were bringing their children to school due to the incentives that are attached to the programme and appealed to ILO to assist the community with a community corn mill so they could use the proceeds to support the children after the project period.

He said aside that, the project had led to improved academic performance for some time now and urged District Assemblies to join hands with the ILO to give better education to children.

Mr Adarkwah however said lack of teachers and accommodation for teacher was a challenge to the project because instead of eight teachers to handle the eight subjects at JHS level they only had four teachers and appealed to the Ghana Education Service to post more teachers to the district ad also solve their accommodation problems.

Mr Paul K. Boateng, Chairman of Schools Management Committee, said the visit had been of great importance because for the two countries to come together for the project testifierd to the unity between the two.

He said the programme had been of great assistance to the community and ?we want to appeal for an extension to enhance its sustainability.?

At Asuopri, the Chief of the Village, Nana Osiadeyor Kofi Amoah I, said since the programme started the chiefs and elders had decided that no child of school going age would be sent to the farm again.

?We now understand that the place for the children is in the classroom. We want them to be responsible and useful in the community,? he added and pledged their support and commitment to ensure the success of the project.

Kuapa  Cocoa Union, an implementing Agency of the ECOWAS II project in that community, donated a corn mill to  Asuopri community to assist them generate enough income to support the programme and other beneficiary communities too would be supported to engage in income generating activities  of their choices.

Source: GNA


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