Ghana Study Tour: An opportunity to learn and share knowledge on the gold supply chain

My name is Silvia Possenti and I work as Supply Chain and Enterprises Officer for the Accelerating Action for the Elimination of Child Labour in Supply Chains in Africa (ACCEL Africa), an International Labour Organization (ILO) project at the Regional Office for Africa in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

Article | 27 April 2020
Participants in the study tour drew from ASGM and child labour mandate organizations
In February 2020, our project team undertook a study tour to the Caring Gold Mining Project (CGMP) sites in Ghana. As we work on the Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM) supply chains the goal of the study tour was to improve our knowledge and promote innovative approaches in the implementation and delivery of the ACCEL Africa project.

The CGMP is an International Labour Organization (ILO) project funded by the United States Department of Labour (USDOL) that focuses on the elimination of child labour in the artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) globally and in two pilot countries – Ghana and the Philippines.

The project has been implemented for over three years, running from December 2015 to March 19, 2020, with enriching success stories, challenges and results. It has supported the examination and enforcement of laws, policies and regulations at the national level, the access of households in ASGM areas to social protection services and livelihood schemes, the monitoring of child labour and working conditions along the mining supply chain as well as the establishment of global partnerships for networking and the sharing of best practices.

Participants in the study tour drew from ASGM and child labour mandate organizations in three of the six countries that covers the ACCEL Africa project, representing ministries of mines, ministries of labour, miners associations, workers’ organizations, employers’ associations, representatives from district assemblies, representatives from the communities as well as the ACCEL Africa and CGMP project teams.

The study tour included a four-day workshop and one-day field visit to a mining site in Obuasi, Ghana, offering participants, the opportunity to discuss the challenges, findings, successes and lessons to be learned as well as potential actions to implement, and incorporate into country-level programming.

From the discussions among the different participants, it emerged that despite the fact the ASGM sector provides livelihoods for millions of people, it tends to be poverty-driven and is characterized by a high level of informality as well as significant ecological and health costs and decent work deficits.

In particular, the sector results to be shaped by lack of skilled personnel at most levels of operation – both technical and managerial – low levels of production, lack of access to formal markets, inefficient and inappropriate mining and processing techniques.

These features emerged to be common in Nigeria, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Mali, according to representatives from government, workers’ and employers’ organizations also present on the tour and who also underlined a lack and/or inadequacy of appropriate blended policies, legal and institutional frameworks, along with insufficient access to suitable lands, which often leads to social conflicts.
The visit to a mining site in Obuasi offered participants the opportunity to discuss the challenges, findings, successes and lessons to be learned

At the same time, the ASGM sector was seen as capable of generating employment and creating wealth in the host mining communities by reducing rural-urban migration and stimulating economic growth, hence the importance of finding suitable approaches to improving the sector’s programming.

Against this background, a number of key best practices were highlighted in relation to addressing child labour related issues in the ASGM sector. Among them, the relevance of a proper mapping of stakeholders and the implementation of a comprehensive baseline were identified as way to facilitate understanding of both the context and the interests of the intended beneficiaries.

The importance of working closely with local governments to align interventions with community needs and priorities, i.e. school food programmes for students, health insurance and cash transfer enrolment, as well as with activities and plans that already exist within the local area, was particularly emphasized.

We learned a number of key facts that were shared through discussions, including the fact that deepening involvement and participation of key stakeholders creates ownership that contributes to sustainability; and creating horizontal linkages between key national stakeholders and vertical linkages between national and local stakeholders on ASGM increases effectiveness and efficiency.

A regular presence of the project at the community level can also be a game-changer, while behavioural change related to mine safety and health requires access to viable and acceptable options. We also learned that using the CRAFT Code, a Code of Risk-mitigation for ASGM engaging in Formal Trade, as a continuous improvement process to achieve formalization is appropriate for the ASGM sector; and that building ownership and capacity in addressing target issues should be combined with an increasing ability to mobilize resources.

Through group work discussions we realized that building a platform for convergence of different stakeholders at the local level as the hub for interventions (i.e. local steering committees) is worth exploring as efficient social mobilization and result-oriented advocacy are key.

Moreover, it was exceptional and impressive to see how exhaustive stakeholders’ engagement and collaboration can yield excellent results in the fight against child labour and, how former child workers in mining activities had returned to schools with zero dropout rates in some mining communities.

An extremely positive and encouraging fact was the engagement and high commitment of the participants in eliminating child labour and improving decent work deficits in ASGM sector in the target countries, paving the way to a stronger alliance of forces to address issues of child labour in the mining communities.

As Supply Chain and Enterprises Officer, the workshop represented a great opportunity to learn and share knowledge on the gold supply chain by engaging with different ILO constituents. I felt extremely honoured and proud to have contributed to bringing together stakeholders. Through the tour we were able to get to know one other and commit to moving forward and jointly coordinating project’s outputs and activities through ACCEL Africa’s priority sectors.

As a representative from the workers’ unions stated at the end of the workshop, "“We found hope and this hope has been sparked by the workshop. It taught us the importance of involving stakeholders at all levels in the fight against child labour.”