The Tea Association of Malawi (Taml) has reiterated its stance that there are no traces of child labour in the tea industry as the players have made headways in eliminating the vice.
Taml insists the sector has managed to get rid of all forms of forced labour as part of revitalising it, among other things, saying stakeholders reporting of existence of the vice are basing on past reports.
Other countries like the United States (US) have lately been issuing withhold release order on commodities alleged to be produced out of forced labour, under which child labour falls.
But Taml Board Chairperson Sangwani Hara recently said the association has engaged the US Embassy in Lilongwe in its attempt to clear misconceptions among existing and potential buyers in the US.
“To start with, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) which is a United Nations agency has conducted a social audit and cleared the tea sector of any such malpractice. So, we are engaging the US Embassy in Lilongwe to help us clear any misunderstanding on the matter,” Hara said.
He said as a member of the Rainforest Alliance, the association ensures adherence of the group’s tenets and principles, which include respect of human rights in the commodity’s production process.
“That is why we are comfortable that the sector has indeed managed to rectify such vices by among other things working with various stakeholders including communities surrounding tea estates, civic educating them on the dangers of child labour to the extent that any such mal-practices were being reported in the past until it ended,” Hara said.
In a written response to a questionnaire, the US Embassy in Malawi said was in continued engagement with the association in the fight against child labour.
“We are happy to work with the association on these issues (child labour) and we urge the government of Malawi to ensure that all forms of children’s work, including work conducted by children in private homes and on non-commercial farms receive legal protection,” reads part of the emailed response by the US embassy in Malawi.
Tea provides employment to over 54,000 Malawians across the country making it the second biggest employer after the government.
The crop is also one of the largest foreign exchange earners for Malawi, second only to tobacco.
Eric Msikiti is a Senior Reporter/News Producer at Times Group. Though relatively young, Eric boasts years of experience in Malawi’s media industry.