Mapping the true extent of child slavery in Ghana

By on 27 October, 2015
fishing boat children ghana

Children aboard a fishing boat in Lake Volta, where an estimated 35,000 children work in slave labour conditions. Image: Reach for Change.


There are an estimated 168 million children involved in slave labour around the world and more than half of them, are involved in hazardous work (the International Labor Organization). A Ghana Child Labor Survey estimates that 35,000 of these children are involved in the fishing sector around the world’s largest artificial lake, Lake Volta in Ghana. However, by analysing satellite data in a global crowdsourcing initiative, Tomnod is looking to evaluate and assess the true extent of child slavery in across the region.

By searching DigitalGlobe satellite imagery of Lake Volta and placing a tag on every boat, building and fish cage found, Tomnod volunteers are building a valuable data set that, for the first time, will begin to provide an understanding of the modern slavery landscape in this area of the world.

Very little information exists as to the exact prevalence of slavery in the fishing sector around Lake Volta, however Tomnod crowdsourcing manager, Caitlyn Milton is able to describe the deplorable conditions the children are subjected to:

“Lake Volta is a site of systemic modern slavery: children are forced to work as slaves in the area’s fishing industry. Traffickers prey upon vulnerable families, tricking parents into thinking that their children will have the opportunity to attend school in exchange for a few hours of work. Instead the children are sold into a life of misery and suffering, forced to work 19-hour days in deplorable conditions, and likely never to see their parents again. Children are used as cheap, malleable and easily disposable sources of labor, and they are forced to engage in tasks that often leave them permanently disabled and disfigured, or even dead.”

In reponse to the problem, Tomnod has teamed-up with the Global Fund to End Slavery to track the location and number of boats used for fishing around Lake Volta. This invaluable data allows humanitarian groups in the region to target resources and action where they are needed most, freeing children from slavery and preventing more from entering into it.


ghana slavery map

Lake Volta, a 8,502 km2 reservoir behind the Akosombo Dam in Ghana is the world’s largest artificial lake. Image: Tomnod


You can help free child slaves by mapping boats, fish cages and buildings now:  

Read more about slavery on Lake Volta and how your contributions to this Tomnod campaign will help free modern-day slaves.



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