Paraguay Okakuaa Supports Fair Trade Sugar Production

Marcelo Alas, Capacity Building Specialist, Paraguay Okakuaa.

Guillermo Sosa, Minister of Labor, Employment, and Social Security with members of the National Coordinator of Fair Trade Paraguay and the Paraguay Okakuaa Project Director.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL), Paraguay Okakuaa is a project led by Paraguay's Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security (MTESS), which seeks to reduce the worst forms of child labor and improve compliance with labor laws and work conditions. Partners of the Americas implements this program and works in the Department of Guairá specifically in the municipalities of Borja, Iturbe, Troche, Paso Yobai and Villarrica.

Paraguay Okakuaa recently attended an important international conference led by the Latin American Coordinator of Fair Trade Small Producers (CLAC) and the Small Cane Sugar Producers Network entitled "Preparing Fair Trade Sugar for a Sustainable Future." This event promoted good agro-industrial practices and associations for the prevention and eradication of child labor in the region's sugarcane production chain.

The opening ceremony was led by the Minister of MTESS, Guillermo Sosa Flores, and also had the presence of Agr. Eng. Mario León, Deputy Minister of Agriculture; the directors of the CLAC, Sonia Carrillo, from Costa Rica; and Luis Martínez, of Mexico; the President of the Paraguayan Fair Trade Coordinator, Volker Eberhardt; and the Paraguay Okakuaa’s Project Director, Macarena Jiménez.​

The conference included the signing of Letters of Intent between MTESS, the Association of Small Producers of Fair Trade in Colonia Independencia, Mbokayaty and Paso Jobái; and Organic Sugar Cane Producers Associated (CORA) in Borja and Tebicuary districts, to promote initiatives to prevent and eradicate child labor in sugar cane plantations and to strengthen organizations of small fair trade producers.

The Minister of Labor celebrated the event organizers for taking the initiative to hold the conference and urged the associations of producers to continue the collaboration and support of fair trade sugar initiatives. He went on to highlight the Manduvirá cooperative’s success in positioning themselves within international markets.

We must manage change to make it sustainable." Guillermo Sosa, Minister of Labor.

The event was held from September 4 to September 6 in the Miraflores hall in the City of Villarrica and was attended by various associations that make up the fair trade system of Cuba, Belize, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Peru, El Salvador, Colombia, Mexico, Canada and Guatemala.

The agenda included panel discussions that addressed issues related to improving agro-industrial practices, climate change, community outreach in the production model and good associative practices for the prevention of child labor in the sugar cane supply chain.

“Since CONAETI, progress has been made in the regulation of ILO Conventions 138[1] and 182[2] " Dr. Natalia Sosa Flores / General Director of Protection of Children and Adolescents. — in Miraflores Events​

[1] ILO Convention 138 on Minimum Age for Admission to Employment / Ratified by Paraguay on March 3, 2004.  |  [2] ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor / Ratified by Paraguay on 7 March 2001.

One of the main panels was developed by Dr. Natalia Sosa, General Director for the Protection of Children and Adolescents at the MTESS in Paraguay, who highlighted the important role played by sugar cane producer associations in the country, in the prevention of child labor and the promotion of decent work. Dr. Sosa emphasized the importance of having statistics that help us identify strategies to reduce rural child labor, also highlighting the efforts made by the Comisión Nacional para la Prevención y Erradicación del Trabajo Infantil (CONAETI)[3] as the guiding body of national policy in this matter.

“We must ensure that government efforts are always opportunities and not weaknesses” 

[3] It is a national body composed of representatives of public institutions, employers' and trade union organizations, non-governmental organizations and international cooperation agencies such as UNICEF and ILO. Its purpose is to coordinate efforts to prevent and progressively eliminate child labor and protect the work of adolescents in Paraguay.​

The general conclusions of the day include the commitment of producer organizations to promote a fair trade culture that eliminates the current barriers between the small producer and the large sugar industries. This will promote better dialogue and cooperation between the public and private sectors that uphold agricultural policies in the region. ​