French NGO Human Resources Without Border (HRWB) and American NGO International Initiative to End Child Labor (IIECL) conducted a field study in November 2015, in order to examine and enhance the work and life conditions in coffee and banana tree plantations inPanama.
This study was carried out for the Non Governmental Organization Partners ofThe Americas as part of a US governmentfunded project.
The study focused on the identification of forced labor and child labor risks among internal migrant workers responsible for the harvest in order to propose preventive solutions adoptable by allfarms.
HRWB’s primary role was to examine the management operations (payroll, social reasonability…) in order to evaluate these risks inside the corporategovernance.
IIECL, for its part, had to establish an inventory of tasks that the production for coffee and banana requires, from nursery topackaging. The aim was to map the physical risks (transport of loads, handling chemicals, tools used ...) to primarily prevent children from working in hazardous tasks.
Such a classification allows, also, to identify the tasks that do not present risks for young people, in order to incorporate them in an educational project around these plantations, with the teaching of mathematics, sciences, environment orthe impact of climatechange.
Finally, it helps to determine the occupations of the future, in partnershipwith the principals ofbusinesses.
This mission is an opportunity for HRWB and IIECL to demonstrate their work in the field, its benefits, and to identify the difficulties or risks, in collaboration with corporate management, employees in their workplace (offices like the fields), local NGOs, unions, ministries…
This is a hard task where all information must be verified, crossed checked, where several elements are hidden to observers, either by willful default or by oversight, and where each situation can be seen and interpreted differently by individual witnesses.
This report was developed on the spot, at the most local level of the work of HRWB and IIECL, requiring several days and nights inside the coffee plantation. They were therefore free to circulate, meet on their own the employees, and observe the conditions of life andwork.
(The names of interviewees have been changed to protect their anonymity and that of the visitedplantations).