Turmeric from India

1024_turmeric-from-india.jpgWhy this case study?

Several international and Indian NGOs mentioned there are high risks of child labour in turmeric production in India.

Approach case study

Conducted by Global March Against Child Labour.

  • In 2018, in addition to desk-based research, Global March gathered field data as much as possible during the turmeric harvesting season in Erode (Tamil Nadu), Guntur, Kadapa and Duggirala (Andhra Pradesh), Chamarajanagar (Karnataka) and Basmat (Maharashtra). The fieldwork consisted of household surveys, in-depth interviews with turmeric farmers, community members, village heads and turmeric suppliers and focus group discussions with farmers, community members and suppliers.
  • The research was conducted in a specific region and regarding specific supply chains. Other regions and supply chains may have other characteristics.

Scale, scope and severity of child labour

  • The Global March researchers concluded that, within the specific turmeric supply chains and regions investigated, child labour is not a problem, nor at farm level nor in other stages of the supply chains. It was mentioned that child labour on turmeric farms occurred 10-15 years ago, mostly in stages such as sowing, boiling and drying of turmeric, but in these specific regions this is now a thing of the past.
  • Based on this research, some factors have been identified to argue that Indian turmeric is a less susceptible commodity for having child labour:
    1. Socio-economic condition of turmeric farmers. Manufacturing of turmeric in India has been a traditional practice with many turmeric farmers being the third or fourth generation farmers today. In general, turmeric has essentially remained a profitable commodity for the farmers thereby minimising the risks of putting their children to work. Cross- cropping is also a reason why most turmeric farmers get saved from colossal economic damages since they also grow other crops along with turmeric.
    2. Demographic factors. Most of the turmeric producing states in India rank high on socio-economic indicators. Tamil Nadu, a leading turmeric producing region is in fact one of the most progressive states of India with a literacy rate of almost 75% in rural areas (India census 2011). Andhra Pradesh on the other hand has seen a huge paradigm shift in terms of promoting pro farmer policies such as waiving of farmer loans and increasing subsidies, making the farmers economically stronger. States such as Maharashtra and Karnataka have witnessed increasing focus on higher education and improvement in primary public schooling with a downfall in the number of out of school children.
    3. Intensive nature of the crop. Turmeric’s properties is one of the reasons that prevents children from working in the farms. Many farmers who were interviewed for this study expressed their concerns over the heat producing nature of turmeric which is harmful for the children. It is also more labour intensive, with farm owners relying mostly on migrant or seasonal labour for the manual labour and some other processes such as boiling and polishing which is now done by machines. The mechanisation is also a result of buyers moving towards more investments in technology and machines for a better quality product.
    4. Role of businesses. As a commodity, turmeric has gained a lot of significance in the global trade of spices, making the businesses more cautious for providing sustainable products to the western market. In general, suppliers interviewed for this case study share a long relationship with the farming communities and they have been working towards linking them to the global market and encouraging them to adopt best farming practices. Some suppliers are involved in farm interventions targeting:
  • Knowledge building of farmers for economic resilience;
  • Productivity increase, product integrity enhancement and reduction in cost of cultivation;
  • Community engagement by building a more holistic and not just a business relationship with the farming community;
  • Certification – Sustainability certifications such as Rainforest Alliance for spices follow and promote agricultural practices that are more long lasting and profitable for better livelihoods.

This approach does not directly address the issue of child labour, but is a means to prevent it in the supply chains by building economic resilience of the turmeric farmers, thereby giving them fair wages and ensuring the same for a long term. As a result, the farmers are able to not only produce sustainable turmeric but also make enough to invest in their children’s education as the suppliers make sure that the farmers receive not only minimum price for their produce but also a premium from these suppliers. Regular trainings for the farmers is sometimes given and the topic of child labour is discussed with them to ensure they do not hire children to work on the farms.

Proposed measures to reduce child labour risks

Global March summarises the following measures for reducing child labour risks in turmeric.

Indicator Impact
Direct contact with farmers Interacting with farmers regularly not only builds an interpersonal relationship between the company and the farmer, but also gives the supplier access to farmer’s household and community to better analyse the situation of children in the region.
Community’s engagement and active participation By integrating communities as stakeholders, companies can gain more knowledge about the socio economic issues of the regions they are working in and at the same time can build a relationship based on trust for working on prevention of practices such as child labour and forced labour from a more local perspective.
Role of LEAs and government authorit ies Initiatives by companies to address child labour can only be strengthened if concerned LEAs and government departments work in collaboration with farmers, communities and the companies to better understand the measures needed for prevention of child labour in supply chains.
Theory of change By directing efforts for economic resilience of farmers and their households through sustainable farming practices and ensuring fair prices, chances of child labour can be reduced as the farmers would be economically stable to invest in the education of their children.
Incentivising spice production Incentives such as fair price, premium on products, training and on-the-farm coaching, as well as access to market intelligence and community support can incentivise spices farming and make it more sustainable and economically profitable for a long term.
Expanding the definition of sustainability Including a social wellbeing principle in sustainability standards can help in integrating stakeholders such as communities and farmers households to work in collaboration on initiatives for prevention and elimination of child labour and ensuring education for all.
Transparency – Backward integration Transparency, when maintained at all levels of supply chain, i.e. with farmers, buying companies and communities brings in more trust and simplifies the complexities of global supply chains, especially when there are millions of small scale farmers as they value transparency, which contributes to building trust between them and the companies.
Science and technology Use of technology can also help in strengthening transparency and connecting the western buyers with the smallest farmers and make them more aware about their supply chain. Such transparency will also ensure that practices like child labour or other labour rights violations are not encouraged. An App that a specific supplier uses can be used as an example as it stores all the data from the field, records yield update types of chemicals/fertilisers being used and show test results of the samples. All of these factors play a huge role in maintaining supply chain control, transparency and traceability which is essential for following due diligence by companies.

Proposed measures to reduce child labour risks

Global March summarises the following measures for reducing child labour risks in turmeric.

Even though certifications in spices such as Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Code, (USAC) Certification SAN (Sustainable Agriculture Network) and SAC (Sustainable Agriculture Code) standards are benchmark for responsible agricultural practices and include no child labour policy, their focus still remains more on sustainable farming and food safety and need to be more inclusive of human rights violations in the supply chains.