Multinational dairy company, FrieslandCampina, says it has engaged an international firm, Partner Africa, to conduct an audit of its raw milk sourcing in Nigeria following an investigation by PREMIUM TIMES revealing child labour in its supply chain.
The company said it is committed to “preventing and eliminating” child labour in its supply chain based on relevant local and international laws and conventions.
The PREMIUM TIMES’ investigation exposed how child labour routinely boosts the company’s production and perhaps profits in Nigeria as the Dutch multinational fails to implement necessary due diligence that would have helped check the adverse human rights issue in its Dairy Development Programme. It is through the programme that it sources raw milk for the production of products like Three Crown and Peak Milk, among others, in Nigeria.
The children, like Yusufa Isah, six, Tijani Abubakar, 13 and Yunusa Sanusi, 10, usually sleep in hovels on isolated farms, bare of any infrastructure and water and sanitation facility. At 5 a.m. each day, they begin the first task of extracting milk from cows. By 11 a.m., they herd the animals to graze in the bushes and urban areas, trekking several kilometres in keeping with an outdated animal husbandry method still common in sub-Saharan Africa.
The boys return at dusk. Their ages notwithstanding, they sleep on the isolated farm apparently to ensure the security of the animals in a country where farmers and herders frequently clash over land rights and resources.
However, the company, in an official statement by its corporate affairs director, Ore Famurewa, Wednesday evening, vowed commitment to addressing child labour incidence in its supply chain and disclosed the engagement of Partner Africa for an investigation of the Dairy Development Programme based in Oyo State, Nigeria’s southwest.
“An international non-profit organization, Partner Africa, has been engaged to
conduct an independent investigation of our Dairy Development sites,” disclosed Ms Famurewa. “FrieslandCampina WAMCO will share the results of this investigation at its completion.”
Partner Africa is a UK-registered social enterprise working with downstream companies on ethical and socially responsible business. According to the information on its website, it carries out social audits and supply chain solutions for several global brands, including Coca Cola and Unilever. It mainly works in Africa and the Near East, where many corporations source raw materials from primary producers.
A mail sent to the firm Wednesday evening requesting confirmation of its engagement by FrieslandCampina was not replied before the filing of this report on Thursday.
Further, in the Dutch company’s statement, Ms Famurewa said “FrieslandCampina WAMCO is a responsible corporate entity in Nigeria. It does not condone any form of undue commercial exploitation in any of its processes. The Company is fully committed to preventing and eliminating any form of child labour in its supply chain.
“It continually works with stakeholders to develop and implement meaningful solutions, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
“This ethos consistently forms part of its engagement with the pastoralist and
smallholder farmers. Additional review will be done to ensure all practices remain in line with the Oyo State Child Rights Law 2006 in particular and the Laws of Nigeria in general.”
In an earlier letter to PREMIUM TIMES last Saturday, the company had said, “FrieslandCampina WAMCO is glad that this concern has been brought to our attention as this gives us a chance to investigate the situation and, if necessary, to work towards providing remediation for the person(s)
We had earlier reported in our investigation that the Dutch government, which supports the company’s local sourcing programme in Nigeria, said it was investigating the child labour incidence and would share findings in “two weeks”.