Tea-Triangular: Kenya, Malawi and Uganda tripartite stakeholders and tea supply chain representatives share knowledge to combat child labour in the tea supply chain.

Key stakeholders from Kenya, Malawi, and Uganda have joined forces to address the critical issue of child labour within the tea industry.

Article | 22 February 2024
Uganda and Malawi, 14 -22 february, 2024 -  In an unprecedented collaborative effort, key stakeholders from Kenya, Malawi, and Uganda have joined forces to address the critical issue of child labour within the tea industry. This historic study visit took place in Uganda and Malawi under the umbrella of the ACCEL Africa project's goal of establishing South-South Intra-African partnerships, and aimed to highlight the challenges and advancements in the quest to eradicate child labour from the supply chain.

The visit has garnered significant attention, with high-level representation from various organizations, including the Central Organization of Traders Union, the Federation of Kenyan Employers, the Kenya Ministry of Labour, the Kenya Tea Development Authority, the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions, the Employers’ Consultative Association of Malawi, the Ministry of Labour of Malawi, the Tea Association of Malawi, the National Organisation of Trade Unions in Uganda, the Federation of Uganda Employers, the Ministry of Gender Labour & Social Development, and the Uganda Tea Association.

Day 1: Harnessing social responsibility in Kikuube

The journey began with engaging discussions in Kikuube, fostering a platform for robust knowledge exchange and collaborative efforts. A pivotal meeting with McLeod Russel Uganda Limited (MRUL) showcased the substantial progress achieved in eliminating child labour through vigorous corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. MRUL's all-encompassing approach, integrating worker rights, education, and community involvement, has set a commendable benchmark for ethical practices within the tea industry. The comprehensive strategy includes strict policy enforcement, certification standards, and a zero-tolerance policy towards child labour, making MRUL a leading example in the sector.

The day's dialogue also broadened to include various sector perspectives, emphasizing the potential for the tea industry to lead by example in ethical labour practices. The clear consensus was that eradicating child labour demands more than just adhering to market standards; it requires a genuine commitment to transformative change and child welfare.

The significance of education and poverty alleviation as key strategies against child labour was underscored, with initiatives like constructing schools within tea estates highlighted as transformative. The Tea Association of Malawi's input emphasized the crucial role of smallholders in the tea production landscape, advocating for their inclusion in comprehensive child labour eradication strategies.

Day 2: Engaging and empowering in Bugambe

The focus shifted towards practical solutions, spotlighting partnerships and collaborations like the impactful MOUs with entities such as MRUL. These partnerships have facilitated targeted actions against child labour, emphasizing monitoring, enforcement, and the crucial role of education in prevention and remediation efforts. The exchange of experiences from Kenya and Malawi enriched the dialogue, offering a tapestry of perspectives on combating child labour within their tea sectors.

Day 3: Strengthening industry collaboration in Uganda

The Uganda Tea Association (UTA) underscored its pivotal role in the industry, representing a unified voice in the fight against child labour. The call for more inclusive engagement and broader industry participation in child labour initiatives was highlighted, alongside discussions on the challenges faced by the industry, including the need for a coordinated approach and resource mobilization to enhance impact.

Day 4 & 5: Insights from Malawi's tea sector

The focus shifted to Malawi, where the tea industry's corporate social responsibilities were analysed. Efforts concentrated on the smallholder subsector, with significant contributions from members in supporting community infrastructure, such as water facilities and educational institutions. These initiatives, coupled with the recent adjustment of minimum wages, showcased a proactive stance towards improving workers' living conditions and indirectly combating child labour.

Despite these efforts, challenges such as the limited scope of interventions and the need for a more inclusive approach were evident. The call for extending successful projects and ensuring the sustainability of community-based child labour committees was echoed by various stakeholders, highlighting the ongoing struggle against child labour in both formal and informal sectors.

Day 6: Community Engagement and Sustainability in Mulanje

In Mulanje, the emphasis was on community child labour committees and their role in raising awareness, providing education, and supporting vulnerable families. The need for continuous support and empowerment from both governmental and non-governmental entities was a recurring theme.

The study visit also highlighted the importance of vocational training for youth and support for smallholder farmers as comprehensive strategies to tackle child labour by providing individuals with skills and economic opportunities.

Reflecting on the Journey

The study visit has shed light on the multifaceted nature of child labour eradication efforts within the tea industry, demonstrating the progress made and the challenges that remain. The commitment to shared learning, advocacy, and action remains a beacon of hope for a future where the tea industry is free from child labour.