Child Labour in Agriculture

EU and UN agencies join forces to address root causes of child labour

Addressing child labour in coffee value chains

©FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri


BRUSSELS – The European Commission, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in collaboration with the International Trade Centre (ITC), have launched a joint programme to tackle the root causes of child labour in supply chains. The action is funded by the European Union (EU) for a total budget of 10 million EUR and will contribute to the 8.7 Accelerator strategy.

For the first time in 20 years, child labour has increased. There are currently 160 million children trapped in child labour worldwide, of which 79 million perform hazardous work. Seventy per cent of child labour occurs in agriculture, where it is both a cause and an effect of poverty. Child labour in global supply chains is particularly prevalent at the upstream level, in the production of raw materials, agrifood commodities and inputs used to manufacture final export products.

The project aims to contribute to eliminating child labour in the coffee supply chain and leverage existing efforts in the minerals supply chain, particularly in cobalt production. The action will be implemented over the next three years and four months in selected partner countries, namely Honduras, Uganda and Viet Nam, which are important coffee producers, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the world’s leading producer of cobalt. At the same time, the project will advocate for sustainable actions by a multitude of partners, public and private, in global value chains.

The objective is to address the root causes of child labour while also promoting preventive measures. Children involved in or at risk of child labour, as well as their families and communities, will directly benefit from the action.

The drivers of child labour in the targeted supply chains are complex. They include limited legal protections and a lack of enforcement, poverty and social vulnerability, exposure to shocks, climate change impacts and inadequate social protection, as well as a lack of decent work opportunities and limited access to quality schooling.

To tackle the different dimensions of the issue, the project will adopt an integrated approach, tailored to the specific needs of the targeted areas. In particular, the initiative will promote a stronger integration of child labour prevention and elimination in public policies, while improving the provision of social services and fostering the reintegration and retention of children at school.

At the same time, project interventions will focus on enhancing the due diligence capacity of supply chain actors, strengthening the resilience and livelihoods of small-scale farmers, advancing fundamental principles and rights at work, and increasing decent work opportunities for adults and young workers. To implement the integrated approach, the project will leverage on the expertise, experience and networks of the implementing partners. It will also strengthen the capacity of local communities to implement concerted interventions against any incidences of child labour in any sector.

The implementing agencies will cooperate with supply chain actors at the global, regional, national and local levels, and share knowledge and sustainable solutions with policy makers and grassroots organizations in the partner countries. The ILO will bring together and engage private sector actors involved in the coffee supply chain through its Child Labour Platform  (CLP), the leading business initiative to eradicate child labour in supply chains.

The supply chains primarily targeted by this action are important for the EU. Europe is the largest consumer market for coffee and relies on cobalt for the production of batteries used in electric cars, computers, and mobile phones. Along with other minerals, cobalt plays a central role in the green energy transition. Through this project, the EU reaffirms its commitment to taking action to protect children, including in global supply chains.

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Fleur Rondelez
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Carlo Angelico
FAO Headquarters 
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Marco Carraro
UNICEF Representation to the EU Institutions
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Susanna Pak
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