Helping Farmers Promote Decent Work

All workers have the right to decent work – work that offers fair pay, security and equal opportunities for learning and progression, in an environment where people feel safe, respected, and able to express their concerns or negotiate better conditions. Helping BCI Farmers to promote decent work is vital to improving farmers’ and workers’ wellbeing and livelihoods. That’s why it is one of the six Better Cotton Standard System Production Principles, and an important part of the training we provide through our IPs.

Cotton farmers across the world face multiple decent work challenges, ranging from protecting workers from pesticide exposure, discrimination against women and providing adequate transport, food and accommodation for seasonal workers, to identifying and preventing child labour.

To promote decent work in Turkey, BCI’s Implementing Partner IPUD (Good Cotton Practices Association) conducts field visits and holds training events to raise BCI Farmers’ awareness of topical issues. In 2016, it built on these efforts by developing a comprehensive decent work training programme, in partnership with the Fair Labor Association (FLA), covering a broad range of decent work topics. To reach as many people as possible, IPUD set out to prepare producer unit (PU) managers and field facilitators to train and share knowledge with fellow farmers and workers.

Firstly, IPUD provided three days of ‘train the trainer’ training to 64 PU managers and field facilitators in the Aydın and Şanlıurfa regions. Through learning materials developed in partnership with the Fair Labor Association (FLA), farmers learnt about decent work issues related to agriculture and cotton, regional differences and BCSS criteria, as well as international, national and local regulations. Participants were also able to exchange knowledge, and learn best practice techniques for training farmers and workers. They also learnt about monitoring compliance with decent work standards in the field, and partnering with NGOs to improve labour conditions.

With the support of IPUD and the FLA, each producer unit organised field-level training for its farmers and workers throughout the season, adapting it to suit their needs. For example, seasonal workers, who help with irrigating crops, learnt about securing work permits and fair pay, while permanent workers, who typically help with weeding and harvesting, focused on contractual issues. Some PUs also invited local doctors to provide additional health and safety sessions.

Overall, 998 people participated in the training, and the results are already visible. Some PU managers are making improvements to contractual conditions, and providing contracts to migrant workers. Elsewhere, they improved the living and transport conditions for seasonal workers.

“Following on from the training, we noticed a significant improvement in the awareness of decent work issues among both farmers and workers,” says Ömer Oktay, IPUD’s field training and capacity building specialist. “We’ll encourage production unit managers to build on this success by continuing to share their decent work knowledge with farmers and workers every year.”