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Child labour in agriculture is on the rise


12 June 2018, Rome - After years of steady decline, child labour in agriculture has started to rise again in recent years driven in part by an increase in conflicts and climate-induced disasters. This worrisome trend, not only threatens the wellbeing of millions of children, but also undermines efforts to end global hunger and poverty, warned FAO today as it observed World Day Against Child Labour.

The number of child labourers in agriculture worldwide has increased substantially from 98 million to 108 million since 2012 after more than a decade of continuous decline, according to the latest estimates. Prolonged conflicts and climate-related natural disasters followed by forced migration have pushed hundreds of thousands of children into child labour.

Zero Hunger is only possible with Zero Child Labour

FAO stresses that child labour in agriculture is a global issue that is harming children, damaging the agricultural sector and perpetuating rural poverty. For instance, when children are forced to work long hours, their opportunity to attend school and develop their skills is limited, which interferes with their ability to access decent and productive employment opportunities later in life including opportunities in a modernized agricultural sector.

"Since more than 70 percent of child labour worldwide takes place in agriculture, it is vital to integrate child labour into national agricultural policies and address the issue at the household level. Otherwise, it will further exacerbate poverty and hunger in rural areas. We need to break this vicious circle if we want to achieve progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Zero Hunger is not possible without Zero Child Labour," said FAO Deputy Director-General (Programmes), Daniel Gustafson.

A wider approach to eliminate child labour

FAO and its partners are trying to end the dependence of family farms and enterprises on child labour through improving skills of especially small family farmers, providing access to inputs and credit, especially for women, and implementing sustainable agricultural practices in order to improve productivity and make smallholder farms viable enough to employ adults in decent work. The Organization also supports countries in integrating child labour in national policy, legislation, programmes and strategies.

As part of its wider approach to eliminate child labour in agriculture, FAO promotes efforts to boost the incomes of rural families so that they have the means to send their children to school rather than work. The Organization is also intensifying its action to capacitate agricultural stakeholders and equip them with the skills needed to reduce and prevent child labour in agriculture one hand, and promote decent jobs for rural youth on another hand. For instance, FAO has developed country-tailored materials offering practical guidance, such as the Handbook for monitoring and evaluating child labour in agricultural programmes and the Facilitators' Visual Guide: Protect Children from pesticides!

In addition, a new mini e-learning course, developed in partnership with the ILO, has been added to the existing curriculum focused on child labour issues, available on the FAO e-learning centre platform: Promoting youth employment and reducing child labour in agriculture. The new course explains differences and linkages between the two issues, while presenting concrete strategies to strengthen the impact and coherence of policies and programmes by considering them together.

The mini course will benefit FAO staff in the Headquarters and in the decentralized offices who work on youth employment-related matters, but also those who are concerned with the occupational safety and health of agricultural workers. Producer organizations, private sector actors and small and large-scale agribusiness will also find it useful to support these stakeholders in creation of safe and decent employment opportunities for rural youth.

Working with local communities and refugees

In Lebanon, FAO has developed a short visual story about the dangers of pesticides for younger children, who are potentially illiterate. It focuses especially on Syrian refugee children. The agency is also working on a mobile app in the form of a game, which looks at risks and hazards associated with different agricultural settings such as horticulture, field crops and green houses.

In Uganda, FAO, in coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Labour, Gender and Social Development, organizes trainings for local agricultural extension workers, labour officers, secondary school teachers and students to promote safe work for youth and prevent hazardous child labour in agriculture in several districts, including refugee hosting communities in the West Nile.

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