Integrated Agrarian Reform Beneficiary Organisation (ARBO) Child Labour and PPE Programme (IACAP)
Best Social Sustainability Initiative
The Sugar Industry Foundation Inc. (SIFI) initiates, develops, promotes and funds projects for sugar workers of its member organisations, their families and the communities they are part of.
It is running this project with Proforest, a non-profit supporting companies, governments, civil society and other organisations with responsible production and sourcing of commodities.
“IACAP”, or Integrated ARBO* Child Labour and PPE Programme and Services, was launched in February 2021. It is one of several initiatives under a wider multi-year landscape programme to support Responsible Sourcing from Smallholders (RSS) in the sugar industry in Negros Occidental, Philippines.
The programme is funded by Nestlé and American Sugar Refining, Inc. (ASR Group), and is implemented by SIFI, with three sugar mills namely Hawaiian-Philippine Company, Victorias Milling Corporation and Lopez Sugar Corporation.
As part of the long-running programme, Proforest and SIFI (Sugar Industry Foundation Inc.) conducted a risk assessment on labour rights, working conditions and small farmers’ livelihoods.
They found a high tendency for farmers to only use selective personal protective equipment (PPE) items due to heat and discomfort. In addition, when looking at the risk of child labour, the programme recognised an increased risk due to the pandemic, especially among farmers with individually managed farms where family members, including children, help their parents.
These findings emphasised the need for innovative and locally led approaches through ARBOs, going beyond the usual awareness and training sessions, with the pandemic increasing the need and urgency.
*Agrarian Reform Beneficiary Organisations are groups of small farmers who are beneficiaries of the National Agrarian Reform Programme.
Purpose of the Project
This project focuses on institutionalising the prevention of child labour and promoting appropriate PPE use among farmer organisations.
Its approach is to build capacity using existing structures and ensure local ownership, empowering people through knowledge building and participatory decision-making.
It is designed to show ARBOs the value of awareness raising and monitoring as an important service to members. ARBO leaders and officers receive training on policy formulation, strategic action programme planning, and running awareness raising events in communities.
Adult-supervised educational projects, such as vegetable gardens or vermicomposting, also allow for communal activities with children in a safe space to learn useful life skills, while also generating a small income, which can be used to purchase school supplies, for example.
Negros Occidental, the “sugar capital of the Philippines” is a province in the north-western part of Negros, the fourth most populated province in the Philippines. It accounts for about half of the country’s total sugar production and is home to nine sugar mills and an estimated 28,295 farmers.
The scale of sugarcane farming makes this a key landscape for Proforest’s Responsible Sourcing from Smallholders (RSS) programme, which aims to enhance farming practices, working conditions and livelihoods for smallholder farmers, as well as improving their capacity and access to training about sustainable sugarcane production.
Why this project?
IACAP has been a collaboration from the start. Joint planning sessions were undertaken with SIFI to determine the ARBOs’ capacity, expectations, and commitment to run the IACAP programme.
From the initial planning sessions, SIFI observed that the ARBOs were open to learning new ways to ensure children and workers are protected. Each ARBO defined their own plan on creating awareness on child labour, monitoring movements in the field and increasing efforts on use of PPE. This made the material more relevant and more impactful for the local communities.
Furthermore, the ARBOs allocated budgets to co-fund implementation, demonstrating long-term commitment and ownership.
“Projects like this mark an essential step toward creating positive social and economic impact and shared value in our value chain. The strong partnership among stakeholders has enabled a perfect climate for the continuous success and benefit to the most vulnerable farmer communities working in the sugarcane industry in Negros in the Philippines.”
Rafael Vayá, VP, Corporate Social Responsibility – ASR Group
“Addressing salient human rights risks within our sugarcane supply chains is a shared responsibility. This project has made great strides in mitigating two of them, i.e. safety and health, and child labor, while empowering farmers through education and capacity building.”
Karen Lourdes, Global Sustainable Sourcing Manager, Sugar & Coconut – Nestlé
Impacts of the Project
The IACAP Programme has inspired ARBO leaders to protect the welfare of their children. A very clear demonstration of this is that the participating ARBOs celebrated World Day Against Child Labour (WDACL) for the first time in 2021 and again in 2022.
In 2021, 89 farmers from 21 ARBOs participated in IACAP with 261 children of the ARBO members being included in the educational projects and WDACL events.
By the end of 2022, the number of participants increased to 497 farmers and 466 children from 31 ARBOs. Through these activities, children (and parents) are made to become more aware of their rights and the ill-effects of hazardous labour.
Thirty one ARBOs have now passed policies on PPE use and preventing child labour, and have received training on child labour, proper PPE use, institutionalising IACAP and how to conduct monitoring.
Feedback shows good progress in child labour prevention in most of the ARBOs that joined in 2021. This will be closely monitored through surveys.