By Princewill Ekwujuru
British American Tobacco Nigeria, BATN, has reiterated its commitment to put an end to child labour in tobacco farming. The company made the pledge during the 2017 BATN Farmers’ Awards ceremony held at the company’s recreation centre in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Speaking, the Area Operations Manager, BAT West Africa, Charles Kyalo, emphasized the company’s zero tolerance for child labour in tobacco farming.
While explaining why it placed priority on child labour compliance in this year’s awards ceremony, He said: “As part of the company’s supplier Code of Conduct, which is a subset of our Standards of Business Conduct, we do not support child labour in tobacco farming operations. To ensure full compliance, farmers must produce a document that shows their children attended school during the growing season, which is also validated through unannounced spot checks.”
He added that, “To further signify the importance BAT places on the prevention of child labour, this year’s Farmers’ Award is themed, ‘End Child Labour,’ to advocate against the use of children of school going age in tobacco farming.”
He also noted that apart from child labour compliance, the company also supports efforts by the farmers to increase productivity, produce food crops alongside tobacco farming, and to protect and conserve the natural forests. These efforts, he said, were being rewarded through the award of numerous prizes such as motorcycles, pumping machines, water tanks, sprayers and mobiles phones to over 250 farmers in Oyo State.
BATN Legal and External Affairs Director, West Africa, Freddy Messanvi, in his opening remarks, stated that the company was strengthening its outreach against child labour through seminars to educate farmers on the dangers of child labour, while also exploring ethical ways of integrating children into their family businesses.
“Given the nature of our environment, parents are eager for their children to continue the family business and this is sometimes at the detriment of the children’s education. ‘End Child Labour’ is not just the theme for this year’s award ceremony, but it is a necessary way of working, which we at BATN take seriously,” he said.
Speaking further, Messanvi said BATN is committed to local development through empowering the farmers by providing them with a ready market, interest free loans, technical support, fair pricing, environmental management and alternative sources of income through alternative cultivation of food crops.
Mr. Rasheed Bakare, Chairman, Nigerian Independent Tobacco Association (NITA), speaking on behalf of members, appreciated BATN for its immense support and for sustaining the awards since its inception 12 years ago.
“Today’s award ceremony is a testimony of BATN’s kind gesture towards NITA farmers. We deeply appreciate the recognition and reward given to our members at this occasion and the numerous technical, material and financial support to our farmers over the years,” he said.
The Farmers’ Awards is designed to reward the company’s contracted farmers and others farmers for their commitment and compliance with the child labour policy, volume contribution on target, adoption of efficient curing system, adoption of food crop growing, and zero usage of natural forest for tobacco production, among other criteria.