Thanks for providing an opportunity to share views and experiences on the complex issue of child labour.
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 concept of child labour is defined in legal terms whereby thos below the age of 18 years are regarded as children which is ok. However, in most most cultures in Uganda, the initiation into adulthoold is not dependent on age because most of the rural communities do not count years but rather look at the physical development of the child to determine the appropriate tasks that they can undertake depending on the sex. In most communities, engaging in agriculture and domestic work is the first form of vocational education that every parent will provide their child as they contribute to household food security and also enable them can fend for themselves when they grow up. This therefore creates a kind of competition with formal education system which comes at a cost to the perents and they have to forego the labour from their children with no guaranteed gainful formal employment opportunities in the future. Therefore, the concept of child labour elimination is largely perceived by rural populationa and some leaders as an attempt to deny children an opportunity to help their poor parents and also learn valuable life skills. The definition of age appropriate tasks and child labour is therefore very complex and needs to be addressed using a cultural lense for it to be embraced by cultural leaders and local leaders in a bid to develop sustainable solutions. Enforcement is very dificult especially in the informal sector where the majority of the child labourrers are due to structural challenges.
Having grown in a poor farming household in a remote rural area in Uganda, I got involved in farming activities an a very early age because most of the family members go to the garden and children are also taken to the garden or go on there own even if they are told to remain home. So in the early ages (pre-primary age < 5 years) engaging in farming activities is largely voluntary and it enjoyable because you can leave at will. However as I grew older (primary age 6-13), I was formerly enrolled to the farming activities which involved going to work in the nearby garden before going to school and sometimes staying home to help look after cattle or younger children. As I became a young adolescent, and joined secondary education (>14 years) I was gradually exempted from most farming activities and would only participate during weekends and holidays.
Therefore, the age-group that is more at risk of child labour are the primary school age going children who are supporsed to be under compulsory education primary as well as those aged 14 to 15 years who can not sign contracts even if they have attained the minimum age for admission into employment.
Therefore, therere is need to develop comprehensive and culturally sensitive guidelines for raising awareness on child labour among communities in the informal sector, improve livelihoods, equip young people with skills for gainful employment and also address structural gaps.
Under the child labour project being implemented in Uganda, a great effort is bgin undertaken to build the capacity of the agricultural extension workers, community development officers and labour officers to support prevension and protection of children including referral.
Climate change is also exercabating the situation and most young people as well as their parents are suffering from stress due to losses and uncertaininty in yields and markets.
Mr. Paul Emuria