Colombia Avanza is building the capacity of civil society to more effectively combat child labor and other labor abuses in Colombia’s coffee sector. By raising awareness and connecting survivors of labor exploitation to services in two of the largest coffee-producing areas of Colombia, the project helps promote supply chains that are free of exploitative labor and that contribute to a fair playing field for workers in the U.S. and around the world.
The United States is the largest market in the world for Colombian coffee. But before that coffee reaches our cups, the beans must be selected, processed, and dried. Many of the workers who carry out these tasks are children – toiling in the fields instead of learning in school.
There are more than 390,000 children engaged in child labor in Colombia, and more work in agriculture than in any other sector. Colombian coffee production relies largely on family–based labor. In many communities very little is known about the negative consequences of child labor or unsafe working conditions. Civil society organizations have great potential to address this, but they have had limited involvement in raising awareness and advocating for stronger enforcement of existing policies around labor exploitation in this sector.
Colombia Avanza builds the capacity of civil society organizations in the departments of Huila and Tolima to detect and encourage action to eliminate child labor and exploitative working conditions in coffee supply chains. These organizations are developing the skills they need to identify and document the nature and scope of child labor and forced labor, which feeds into awareness-raising and other initiatives to address child labor and violations of acceptable conditions of work. This work will also strengthen mechanisms that enable survivors of labor exploitation to file grievances and seek remedy whenever violations occur.
- In partnership with the University of Ibague, Colombia Avanza carried out a cycle of trainings on child labor and acceptable working conditions in the coffee sector. Members of civil society organizations who participated in this training learned: the relevance of coffee in the Colombian context; what does and does not constitute child labor; the dangerous activities children and adolescents cannot participate in; the importance of occupational health and safety systems in the coffee sector; and the benefits of association as a mechanism to carry out collective action for a common benefit.
- In conjunction with the Ministry of Labor and the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare, Colombia Avanza developed a guidebook that provides on the prevention of child labor and the protection of adolescent workers as well as practical tools to improve the operation of the Interagency Committee for the Elimination of Child Labor.
- Colombia Avanza carried out a cycle of 14 virtual trainings in communications for the members of the Coffee Growers Cooperatives of Huila (Cadefihuila), the Coffee Growers Cooperative of the South of Tolima (Cafisur) and the youth nodes of Pitalito and Chaparral of the Rural Youth Network of Colombia. With this training, the participants of the civil society organizations supported by Colombia Avanza, acquired knowledge in radio, from the best and most recognized tutors in the field. Each of the participants showed their talent and affection for their ancestors and their efforts to prevent child labor in the rural areas. The four radio spots produced by the participants were broadcast on seven radio stations in Tolima and Huila, reaching 6 departments and more than 40 municipalities.
- With its allies in the coffee sector, Colombia Avanza created and implemented a communications strategy to reach rural communities in coffee producing zones regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and prevention. This campaign includes a jingle, co-produced by the project and the National Federation of Coffee Growers, which shares information on COVID-19 and self-care during the pandemic. The song has been played on rural radio stations in 203 municipalities.