Child labor in India is a significant challenge in rural areas in agriculture. Our business model for growing seeds in India involves contracting with individual small growers, either directly or through an agent known as a Seed Coordinator. In 2005, with the acquisition of Emergent Genetics, we became aware that children were often found working in hybrid cottonseed production. We immediately moved to develop an education and monitoring program for our Seed Coordinators and farmers.
The education process has many facets which have evolved over the years. The main tool currently in use is our Business Partner Guidebook, available in five commonly spoken languages of the farmers in our production areas in India. Our contracts with growers and Seed Coordinators also contain language reinforcing Monsanto’s position that child labor is not an acceptable practice.
We continue to monitor our business partners’ fields in cotton, an effort overseen by our Child Care Program Steering Committee, which consists of NGO representatives and other interested parties. The number of business partners in cottonseed production has grown dramatically over the years, from approximately 1,000 in 2005, to approximately 21,000 in the 2011 season. In the past year alone, we added 9,000 business partners.
We’re pleased that child labor in our fields has been reduced to well under one-half of one percent of the labor force. We believe the dramatic increase in the number of growers is the reason for the small increase we have seen in child labor percentage in the 2011 season.
Our vegetable production consists of far fewer growers than the cotton business. We have about 2,000 growers in vegetables, many of whom have grown seeds for Monsanto for five years or more. Prior to the inception of our formal monitoring program in 2009, we began our efforts to advise and educate farmers about our Policy and asked them to comply.
Our efforts appear to have been quite successful, as when monitoring began, we found less than 1 percent child labor. Our production and quality teams, who make frequent field visits and maintain the labor monitoring responsibility themselves, continue to emphasize the importance of only employing adult labor and sending children to school.
This emphasis, along with other practices unique to our vegetable seed production model, have helped eliminate child labor in our business partners’ vegetable fields. These practices include offering a second crop in a season to growers who use only adult labor and partnering with NGOs in the vegetable seed production areas to enhance the school experience for children, in order to increase interest on the part of both children and their parents in children’s education.
This article is excerpted from Monsanto’s 2011 Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability Report. To see the full report, please visit Monsanto.com.