Child Labour in Agriculture

EU due diligence legislation: The role of agricultural stakeholders in the elimination of child labour in agri-food systems

©©FAO/Olympia de Maismont

"To avoid unintended negative consequences and promote a positive impact for smallholder farmers, the law enforcement component of sustainable corporate governance should be complemented by addressing the root causes of child labour in agriculture," said Adama Yaya Diarra, FAO Coordinator of the CLEAR Cotton project in Mali, intervening during the public hearing convened by the European Parliament's Committee on Development and the Committee on International Trade on 30 November 2021, to discuss the ways to tackle child labour in developing countries.

In view of the upcoming European Union legislative initiative on sustainable corporate governance and due diligence, Members of the European Parliament met with representatives of FAO, ILO, governments, farmers' and civil society organizations to debate how the European Union development and trade policies can best address the root causes of child labour, such as household poverty. The geographic and sectoral foci were on Sub-Saharan Africa and the agricultural sector.

70 percent of all child labour is found in agriculture, 72.1 percent in family work, and there are more child labourers in sub-Saharan Africa (86.6 million) than in the rest of the world combined. Against this background, Adama warned: "the upcoming EU due diligence scheme will not reduce child labour risk in agri-food value chains without a solid focus on the agricultural sector, on subsistence farming and on sub-Saharan Africa."

To this purpose, "the role of agricultural stakeholders will be key, as they are in the position to address the structural drivers of child labour in agriculture," which include lack of decent rural employment opportunities, obstacles to quality education and training, obsolete, hazardous and labour-demanding agricultural practices and vulnerability to economic and climate-related shocks. In this regard, as an example of successful multi-stakeholder partnership, Mr. Diarra made reference the CLEAR Cotton project, co-funded by the European Commission and jointly implemented by FAO and the ILO, which aims to eliminate child labour and forced labour in the cotton, textile and garment value chains in Mali, Burkina Faso, Pakistan and Peru.

With the legislative proposal on sustainable corporate governance to be soon submitted to the Parliament and the Council, FAO calls for the inclusion of child labour prevention and mitigation measures in the new normative framework, in order to enhance the social sustainability of agri-food commodities entering the EU market, while helping smallholder farmers to end their dependency on child labour.