There are 250,000 children working on cotton fields in Burkina Faso. Swiss cotton traders are among those who profit from this dangerous work. They play an important role in the global trade in cotton. Solidar Suisse demands that they advocate for the elimination of precarious child labour in their supply chains.
Work ruins children’s futures
Research conducted by Solidar Suisse proves that children work in numerous cotton fields in Burkina Faso. They pick, sow, weed, harvest and handle pesticides and fertilizers. The work is dangerous and the working days are long. It prevents many children from going to school; as a result, they lose all prospects for a better future. The Swiss cotton traders Louis Dreyfus Company and Reinhart AG purchase the largest share of cotton from Burkina Faso. They must recognise the problem of child labour in their supply chains and actively work to curb child labour.
The research conducted by the Burkinabe research institute Cerfodes enabled Solidar Suisse to document the illegal and often dangerous conditions in cotton fields of Burkina Faso. Many witness statements from children and parents demonstrate the extent of the problem. We provided the report to the cotton traders in Switzerland and held talks on possible approaches to resolving the issue.
«I have been working in the cotton fields since I was five years old; I sow, plough and harvest maize, cotton and sesame. When you are small, the work is very hard.»
Seriousness of the situation recognised
The Louis Dreyfus Company has since recognised the problem of child labour in Burkina Faso as a serious issue. It is determining how it can use its role as trader to contribute to resolving the issue. For its part, Reinhart AG, which is based in Winterthur in the canton of Zurich, has committed to transparent communication. Both have signed up to the fundamental requirements of the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, which stipulate that companies must prevent human rights abuses associated with their activities and that they must report transparently on their activities. We remain in contact with the relevant representatives in Switzerland and Burkina Faso.
Still much to do
The cotton companies promise to improve their communication and avoid human rights violations.
Solidar Suisse has been in regular dialogue with Reinhart AG since the publication of the Cotton Report. The company has since taken important steps to document and improve sustainability in its supply chain.
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