Question 4: Innovation
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?
Question 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?
Agricultural policies and strategies have always been designed to increase production and productivity over the years. They are either to increase production of food products (crop production, livestock, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry); raw materials for industrial use and growth, or for export to meet world food demands or to earn the much-needed foreign exchange especially in developing countries. The goals and targets of agricultural policies are to increase self-sufficiency in food production, provide employment especially in rural areas, effect proper land-use and maintain the ecosystem, discourage rural-urban migration, improve and increase income generation, improve and stabilise rural economies amongst others. The objectives are being widened of recent to include competitiveness, food safety, animal welfare, trade, and pricing policies.
Agricultural policies are influenced by agricultural practices and challenges in place. They are designed to build resilience to climate variabilities, landscape conservation and greatly influenced by the land use in Nigeria for land security and preservation. They are designed along with major agricultural outputs- major crops, livestock fisheries and support services which include mechanisation, storage, processing and marketing, extension, advisory services, training, research. Strategies deployed are to achieve the goals, objectives, and targets of the policies in place.
In 2011, Nigeria, in the effort to ensuring food security, took a strategic decision to transform the agricultural sector, with focus on agribusiness, commercialization of agriculture, food security and job creation. A comprehensive Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) was developed, which focused on improving agricultural value chains in several commodities such as fish, shrimps, sorghum, cassava, cocoa, rice, and maize.
Targets set included:
- Adding 20 Million MT to domestic food production by 2015.
- Creating 3.5 Million jobs in the agricultural sector by 2015
- Making Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production by 2015.
- Reducing the level of wheat importation, by substituting 20% of bread flour with high quality of cassava flour
- Grow food, create jobs, and ensure food security.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) through the Federal Department of Fisheries, promoted increased fish production through the Aquaculture value chain, and the Artisanal value chain, under the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GESS) of ATA. The value chains were to create an enabling environment for increased and sustainable production of over one million metric tonnes of aquaculture fish in 4 years, generate employment for the teeming unemployed masses of Nigeria with a focus on the youths and women and pursue the gradual reduction of fish imports to conserve the country’s foreign exchange revenue that could be utilized to develop the local industry. This was also a deliberate import substitution policy. To achieve these, the Aquaculture value chain, under a 4-year implementation plan, planned to increase the annual production of fingerlings by 1.25 Billion, produce 400,000 metric tonnes of fish feed, additional 250,000 metric tonnes of table fish and 100,000 metric tonnes of value-added fish and fisheries products.
Agricultural policies do not seem to directly address the issue of child labour. Some policies on child education may deter the practices of child labour. Operationally, a child can be defined as one that is below the age of puberty (biological definition); below the age of majority (legal definition); and an offspring i.e. son or daughter. Labour, on the other hand, can be defined operationally, as, for example, to exert the power of body/mind; or to toil towards a goal etc. Child labour in agriculture is deployed because it is free, cheap, and easily available. These categories of children do not know or have rights. In certain traditional settings and usually within the rural populace, the man deliberately marries several wives so that he can have many hands (which are his children) to work on his farm. The child in such a setting may, in fact be in the age of majority, and is supporting the father to produce food for the family, earn income or improve the standard of living of the family.
The innovations under the ATA Aquaculture Value Chain, led to the production of fibre class tanks distributed to women and youth specifically to reduce the burden on the women in sourcing production units, or land to dig ponds. They were able to conveniently practise homestead fish farming. The policy did not dictate the ages of beneficiary but was not targeted at a child, however, it reduced the burden of using the children within the household as labour hands to dig ponds and other associated labour in the construction of a pond or growing tanks.
The value chains also procured modern smoking kilns designed by the NCAM to reduce the smoke emission during processing and the residue on the end products. The use of the kilns helped in improving the working conditions and the health of the women. This innovation did not eliminate the use of child labour but reduced the need for the children to source firewood, spend long hours in processing fish under unbearable conditions. Most of the processors upgraded their operations and employed hands because the kilns allowed for greater volumes of fish to be smoked at a time.
c) Child labour in agriculture consist a problem in Nigeria in several ways. It does not allow foe sound education for the children, becomes street urchins and nuisances etc
In the area of nomadic education in Nigeria, this is being addressed.
The following strategies are suggestions that could help to end child labour in agriculture with reference to Nigeria:
- There should be legal intervention with implementation strategies and stringent penalty measures to prohibit child labour along the entire value chain in agriculture.
- The government should offer free and compulsory education to the Junior Secondary School Level which will take the age of the child to 15 years and ensure a level of education that can be deployed to other vocational occupations to earn a living
- Access to funds /resources to enable better investments in labour/ better yields.
- Introduction of high yielding species -crops, livestock, fisheries that will guarantee better productivity and higher returns on investment.
- Deployment of simple but efficient technology for clearing, planting, harvesting, and post-harvest evacuation.
- Cooperation between farmers to rotate work in each other’s farm especially at peak demands for labour for clearing, planting, and harvesting.
- Encouragement of education through the provision of scholarship.
- Education and enlightenment of the farmers on the need to end child labour, educate the child and adopt better farming techniques to improve production and productivity.
Ms. Foluke Areola