22 February 2022, United States: BASF, Syngenta, and Arisa joined hands in a multistakeholder collaboration called Wage Improvements in Seed Hybrids (WISH). WISH will address child labor issues and strive for minimum wage compliance in the vegetable seed sector in India.
The four-year project, cofounded with a grant from the Dutch Enterprise Agency (RVO), consists of two phases: In the first phase, WISH will research whether and where payments are still below minimum wages and/or child labor and the violation of other labor rights occur. This data will be independently collected by two India-based organizations, Glocal Research and MV Foundation, and used by them suggest modes of action to address these challenges. In the second phase, WISH will implement strategies that address the root causes of gaps in the minimum wages and child labor regulations in the vegetable seeds sector.
Various industry reports from Fair Labor Association (FLA) and Arisa indicate that the agriculture sector in India faces several critical and systemic issues related to human and labor rights. Current wages in the sector are often lower than the region’s statutory minimum wage, and although child labor has been greatly reduced in the past few years, it remains an ongoing challenge within the agricultural sector.
“In this project, Arisa will use its expertise, knowledge, and network to address labor rights violations in the vegetable seed sector. Due to COVID-19, the issues motivating this project have become even more urgent: the number of children working has increased in the last two years, as schools were closed and families lost income,” says Sandra Claassen, the Director of Arisa.
BASF’s vegetable seeds business, present in India since 2002, started a broader initiative towards sustainable seed supply called Child Labor Prevention Program in 2009. “Over this time, we have reached more than 88,000 farms from over 14,000 suppliers,” says Rob Huijten, County Head Netherlands, and board member of BASF’s vegetable seed business. “We are proud to work together with Syngenta and Arisa to address this complex situation that affects thousands of families in India.”
“Syngenta has a history of being a positive force for establishing fair labor practices across the world, improving conditions for field workers and addressing challenges like child labor, fair wages, health and safety,” says Jason Allerding, Head of Health, Safety & Environment, Sustainability and Risk Management, Syngenta Seeds. “We understand that meaningful outcomes can best be achieved through collective action from various stakeholders. Through this collaboration, we aim to bring partners together to build a roadmap for wage progression across the vegetable seeds sector.”