Dear FAO colleagues,
Congratulations to this substantive consultation on the role of agricultural stakeholders in preventing and eliminating child labour. The ILO looks at this issue from a child rights perspective, strongly grounded in the ILO Conventions No.138 on the establishment of a Minimum Age to Work and No.182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The ILO recognizes that poverty, discrimination, lack of access to education, to social protection, to livelihoods and to decent work for parents are key drivers for child labour.
The prevalence of child labour in agriculture is also closely linked to barriers for rural workers to organize and collectively negotiate their salaries and working conditions, resulting in the weakness or complete absence of rural workers’ organizations that could help rural workers negotiate a fair share of the wealth that they are generating through their efforts. Below are a few examples and intervention models on how the ILO is addressing these challenges. Further information on resources about child labour in agriculture – ranging from capacity building and strengthening of institutions to community, sectoral and supply chain approaches – can be found here.
1) Hunger and Malnutrition
In some circumstances, children work to meet their food needs. How has child labour in agriculture been addressed through food security and nutrition policy and programming (such as school meals, school feeding programs, home grown gardens, etc.) and what has been the role of agriculture stakeholders in this process?
2) Climate change and environmental degradation
Climate change and environmental degradation can make agricultural work more intensive and income less predictable. This may lead to the engagement of children to meet labour demand and support vulnerabilities of their families. Where have agriculture stakeholders been involved in climate-related policy (deforestation, soil degradation, water scarcity, reduction of biodiversity) or programmes and where this has been effective in addressing child labour?
The ILO Green Jobs Programme promotes the development of policies and tools for a just transition to a low-carbon economy. It has a strong focus on the energy, the transport and the agricultural sector. It also developed a couple of resources to address sustainable food production and irrigation systems, green work programmes for recovery and reconstruction and skills/enterprise tools for youth workers.
3) Family farming
Child labour in family farming is particularly difficult to tackle when family farmers are the most impacted by poverty and vulnerability, and face high levels of economic, financial, social and environmental risks. Which agricultural policies and strategies related to family farming have led to a reduction of child labour in agriculture?
The Cooperatives Branch of the ILO is running a couple of interesting projects on the organization of rural workers, including financial cooperatives. The Branch also has developed a training resource pack for agricultural cooperatives on the elimination of hazardous child labour (a little bit outdated, but still useful).
Agricultural work can be labour intensive, harsh and require additional workforce that is not always available or affordable. Which policies or programmes related to labour saving practices, mechanization, innovation and digitalization have led to the reduction of child labour in agriculture? What has been the role of agricultural stakeholders in this process?
The ILO Social Finance Programme supports the extension of financial services to rural communities, thereby contributing to enterprise development, income generation and the prevention of child labour. The Impact Insurance Facility contributes to generate innovative insurance models, some of them for excluded rural populations and agricultural workers.
5) Public and private investment
Where and how has public or private investment in the agriculture sector been sensitive to addressing child labour? What is the role of agriculture stakeholders in this process?
The ILO collaborates with the German government, German Development Bank and Deutsche Bank, who set up the Africa Agriculture and Trade Investment Fund (AATIF) in 2011. The “Sustainable Investments in African Agriculture” project links economic investments to social and environmental standards, amongst them the reduction of child labour. Country focus is on Burundi, Ghana, Kenya and Zambia.
6) Attention to domestic supply chains
Eliminating child labour in global agricultural supply chains receives significantly more attention and funding than eliminating child labour in domestic and local supply chains, yet there is a wide consensus that more child labour is found in latter. Which kind of agricultural policies and strategies could help to address child labour in domestic and local agricultural supply chains? Are there any cases where gender inequalities in local and /or domestic supply chains have been assessed in linking its impacts on child labour?
7) Cross-sectoral policies and strategies
- In many contexts, agricultural workers do not benefit from the same labour rights as other more formalized sectors. Where and how have agricultural stakeholders complemented labour law compliance in order to successfully improve working conditions for agricultural workers and through this helped reduce the vulnerability of households that engage in child labour?
- In which circumstance have agricultural and education stakeholders come together to formulate and implement policies or programmes on addressing child labour in agriculture ensuring that children have access to affordable and quality education in rural areas? Has this process been successful and what are the main challenges?
- Social protection in rural areas can be a mechanism to provide support to vulnerable households and address child labour in agriculture. Are there any examples of social protection schemes that address the vulnerabilities experienced by migrant agriculture labour, since children can be at particular risk (including multiple forms of exploitation) in these scenarios?
Last year, ILO, UNICEF and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) organized an interesting International Conference on Child Grants. Though the focus was not explicitly on the rural economies and the agricultural sector, it provided interesting insights in good practice and lessons learned from cash transfer programmes, in relation to child social protection and child labour.
Mr. Thomas Wissing