Fairtrade Africa is supporting the promotion of workers’ rights by providing capacity building and technical expertise for the adoption of the UN FAO manual on Banana Occupational Health and Safety Initiative (BOHESI) for use in Ghana.
The BOHESI initiative was originally implemented in response to the challenges surrounding Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) within the banana production value chain worldwide. The initiative facilitated by the World Banana Forum (WBF) and hosted by FAO has aimed at contributing to a socially and environmentally sustainable banana production and trade through improved workplace health conditions and also improving the standard of living for male and female workers in the banana industry.
The move to adopt and expand the manual for the banana industry in Ghana was initiated by the Banana Producers Association, Ghana (BPA) in collaboration with the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) established by the Dutch Government, Bananalink, a United Kingdom (UK) based NGO, International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), with the contribution of Fairtrade Africa, to improve the Occupational Health and Safety of workers in the Ghanaian Banana Industry, following a successful launch in Ecuador.
These coordinated efforts culminated in the implementation of a number of activities including the facilitation of training/workshops on OHS for workers of the three banana producing companies, namely Golden Exotics Limited (GEL), Volta River Estates Limited (VREL) and Musahamat Farms Limited.
The BOHESI manual launched earlier in February this year highlights key safety protocols for workers in the banana industry. The event was hosted by BPA and had been attended by key players such as the Department of Factories Inspectorate of the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ghana Employers Association (GEA), Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU), General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), representatives of UNFAO and ILO. Fairtrade Africa was present at the event and also supported the funding of the launch of the manual through its Dignity for All (D4A) Programme. The Guest Speaker for the event was Honourable Ignatius Baffour Awuah, Minister of Employment and Labour.
For the minister of Employment and Labour Relations, the introduction of the manual shows the commitment of the Banana Producers Association (BPA) and partners in providing the best working conditions for workers in the banana sector consistent with the government policy and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 190 which provides a clear framework for the future of work based on dignity, respect and freedom from violence and harassment.
The BOHESI manual comes as a working tool for the banana plantations, in deepening compliance with Fairtrade standards requirements, which seek to promote the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining, as the foundation of ensuring workers’ rights.
Edward Akapire is Head of Region for Fairtrade Africa West Africa Region. He stresses on Fairtrade Africa’s commitment to work with certified producers to ensure that workers have a safe and decent work environment and conditions that ensure their overall health and wellbeing. “The manual stipulates risk management and assessment to help reduce accidents and hazardous incidences that workers may face in their line of duty. At Fairtrade, we are committed to ensuring that workers’ rights are protected and that they have a conducive working environment to enable them earn a decent livelihood and improve on the standard of living of their households”.
In the wake of the corona virus pandemic, with the first recorded case in Ghana in March this year, Fairtrade banana producers across West Africa have supported their workers in many ways to ensure their safety. These include promoting the use of appropriate personal protective equipment during work and promoting the rights of workers. Companies such as Golden Exotics Limited (GEL), Volta River Estates Limited (VREL) and Musahamat Farms Limited also took the initiative to provide their workers with the appropriate sanitary kits including hand sanitizers. The companies also embarked on series of initiatives to sensitize and educate their staff on the pandemic.