Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Member profile

Ms. Jessie Rivera Fagan

Organization: FAO
Country: Italy
Field(s) of expertise:

Jessie Rivera Fagan is an economist and child labour and younger youth expert working in the Decent Rural Employment team at FAO. She specializes in supporting policy, knowledge generation, capacity development and livelihoods support through programmes on addressing child labour in the agriculture sector and promoting safe and decent youth employment for the 14-17 age cohort. Ms. Fagan holds a M.Sc in Environmental Economics from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and a Bachelor’s degree in International Development Studies and Economics from McGill University.

This member contributed to:

    • As mentioned in the background note, addressing child labour in agriculture and in rural areas requires a multi-sectoral approach. Although child labour exists in agricultural plantations as well as more formal rural employment arrangements, a large percentage can be found within informal employment arrangements and within family based agriculture. Therefore, the nature of support to address the issue should look into its root push and pull causes. More often than not, the root causes in agriculture stem from household poverty along with the lack of awareness of the problem. Support to rural households in addressing their economic dependence on their children’s labour is essential. Support in the form of social protection can assist families with this dependency. Moreover, interventions should seek to support the livelihoods of marginalized famers who are vulnerable to the economic dependence of child labour.  

      FAO has the ability to support livelihoods through numerous mechanisms. This includes social protection (school feeding, cash transfers, access to insurance and other financial services), various employment initiatives (support towards entrepreneurial agri-business or public employment programmes), support towards the organization (including expansion of membership) and strengthening of producer based organizations (for example, through the Forest and Farm Facility) along with additional capacity development opportunities to improve production, sustainability and diversify income opportunities. FAO can upscale these programmes and ensure that more vulnerable households are being targeted.

      Awareness raising is also a key part of the puzzle. Many families and agriculture stakeholder are simply not aware of the dangers of child labour and tendency to perpetuate cycles of poverty. It can be seen as tradition or the norm. Of course, child labour can take many form. Children could are missing school to work (occasionally, seasonally or entirely) or we may refer a 15 year old who is spraying pesticides after school to make some extra pocket monkey for neighboring farmers. Nevertheless, supporting agriculture stakeholders of all kinds, and most importantly farming community members, on the importance of education for children in order to eventually effectively contribute towards rural livelihoods and sustainability along with information on occupational safety and health and what tasks are appropriate at which ages, remain crucial.

      While working in rural Uganda (among several countries), FAO has supported capacity development for agriculture stakeholders, including through use of its Facilitator’s Guide ‘Protect Children from Pesticides!’. The tool has had a powerful impact at community level when school teachers began showing the tool to children and parents. Previously, farmers in the community were simply not aware of the risks related to pesticide use and had often involved older children in spraying activities. However, the tool had helped shift their mindset and thus practices. Therefore, awareness raising activities on the impact of child labour, including appropriate tasks for children on different ages, can be mainstreamed in larger FAO projects requiring limited resources but with an ability to scale important knowledge for sustainability and poverty reduction.

      Many thanks,



      Today, some 54% of Africa's working force relies on the agriculture sector for livelihoods, income and employment. The vast majority of this includes smallholder producers and family farmers. Access to larger markets certainly has huge potential for farmers everywhere, yet I would like to focus my contribution on perspective of the small holder farmer and the need for support in participation within trade deals.

      Beyond economic stimulation and agricultural develpoment, if the objective is to increase food security (and reduce rural poverty), it is essential that both the AfCFTA along with regional and national policies that acompany the trade deal ensure that strategies will be put in place to include and support small holder producers and especially those that may be more marginzed (including producers that are more vulnerable to food insecurity).

      Trade liberalization will not result in increased food security unless domestic producers and traders (including small scale producers and family farmers) are able to participate in increaseing trading opportunities. 

      When we look at Argentina, one of the world's biggest agricultural export countries, the vast majority of production in done through large scale production (up to 100,000 hectares or more). This may seem like a strange example when comparing to Africa where the majority of producers are small scale, yet let's keep in mind that opportunities to access the export market are much easier for large and medium scale producers. Having more accessible (including affordable) food imported into a given country can certainly lead to greater food security but let's not forgot about the small holder producers that may not be able to keep up with lower priced produce flowing in and who often loose their livelihoods in this process.

      Therefore, developing national needs assessment with regards to the inclusion of small holder farmers, including more marginalized producers (pastoralist, those relying on the labour of their children, ingigenous peoples, youth and more) would seem essential. 

      Important considerations, including recommended practices with regards to international trade deals and food security can be found in the FAO publication: Agriculture trade policy and food security in the Carribean (

      Aujourd'hui, environ 54% de la main-d'œuvre africaine dépend du secteur agricole pour ses moyens de subsistance, ses revenus et son emploi. La grande majorité de cela comprend les petits producteurs et les agriculteurs familiaux. L'accès à de plus grands marchés a certainement partout un énorme potentiel pour les agriculteurs, mais j’aimerais centrer ma contribution à la perspective du petit agriculteur et le besoin d'un soutien pour participer aux accords commerciaux.

      Au-delà de la stimulation économique et du développement agricole, si l'objectif est d'accroître la sécurité alimentaire (et de réduire la pauvreté rurale), il est essentiel que la ZLECAf et les politiques régionales et nationales qui accompagnent l'accord commercial garantissent que des stratégies seront mises en place pour inclure et soutenir les petits producteurs et en particulier ceux qui peuvent être plus marginalisés (y compris les producteurs plus vulnérables à l'insécurité alimentaire).

      La libéralisation du commerce n'entraînera pas une sécurité alimentaire accrue à moins que les producteurs et commerçants nationaux (y compris les petits producteurs et les agriculteurs familiaux) soient en mesure de participer à l'augmentation des opportunités commerciales.

      Quand on regarde l'Argentine, l'un des plus grands pays exportateurs de produits agricoles au monde, la grande majorité de la production est une production à grande échelle (jusqu'à 100 000 hectares ou plus). Cela peut sembler un exemple étrange lorsqu'on compare à l'Afrique où la majorité des producteurs sont des petits exploitants agricoles, mais gardons à l'esprit que les opportunités d'accéder au marché d'exportation sont plus faciles pour les grands e moyens producteurs. Le fait d'avoir des aliments plus accessibles (y compris abordables) importés peut conduire à une plus grande sécurité alimentaire, mais les petits producteurs ne pourraient pas être en mesure de suivre les produits à bas prix qui sont mis en marché et perdent souvent leurs moyens de subsistance dans ce processus.

      Par conséquent, le développement d'une évaluation des besoins nationaux en ce qui concerne l'inclusion des petits exploitants agricoles, y compris les producteurs plus marginalisés (pasteurs, ceux qui dépendent du travail de leurs enfants, les peuples autochtones, les jeunes etc.) semble essentiel.

      Des considérations importantes, y compris les pratiques recommandées en ce qui concerne les accords commerciaux internationaux et la sécurité alimentaire, figurent dans la publication de la FAO: Politique commerciale agricole et sécurité alimentaire dans les Caraïbes (




    • Dear participants, FSN members,

      We want to thank all of you for engaging, contributing and checking in on the online discussion over the past weeks. We are extremely happy with the outcome.

      We received contributions from a wide range of global stakeholders, including farmers organizations, UN agencies, government, academics, NGOs, the European Commission and more. Whether it be family farming in cocoa, mechanization or the link between migration and child labour, we have receive rich responses for all seven questions listed. This includes documented good practices, recommendations and important considerations for many of the questions.

      Your contributions will be used to develop an outcome document, which will serve to help design FAO’s activities in the observance of the International Year on the Elimination of Child Labour (2021).

      A warm thank you to all of you,

      Jessie Rivera Fagan [Facilitator]

    • Dear participants,

      Thanks to all of you for the rich contributions and perspectives. In recent days, we have heard more much on mechanization, the link between environmental degredation and child labour (especially in cocoa production) along with the importance of cross-sectoral and inter-agency collaboration in policies and strategies.

      One issue that has come up in some contributions, in which I would like to provide some clarity on, is the definition of child labour. We should not consifer the term 'safe child labour'. As mentioned in the definition above, there are many tasks that are age-appropriate, not hazardous and do not interfere with a child's education. These tasks would not be considered child labour and would should simply be refered to as age-appropiate tasks in agriculture or children's involvement in work.

      Child labour, by definition, is work that engages children below the age of employment, is hazardous, interferes with compulsory education and/or any work that is mentally, physically, socially, morally harmful to a child. Children working in school gardens or assisting their parents in safe, age appropriate tasks on the farm is not child labour. Yet, it is important to recognize that child labour, as per the definition above, is found in both enterprises and family farms. Moreover, child labour in familyis more prevelant in farming in relative terms. Therefore, when looking into appriopriate policy or strategies to address child labour in agriculture, it is essential that we have a strong understanding of what is and what is not child labour in order to make appropriate deicsions that benefit vulnerable rural families and the sustainability of the agriculture sector. This may involve, for example, looking at the national hazardous work list that have developed for all countries that have ratified the ILO Convention 182 'Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour' or consulting with agricultural stakeholders for an updated national list on hazardous work in agriculture.

      I want to thank all of you again for the rich knowledge brought forth thus far, and we encourage you to continue the discussion, and for new participants to share their insights or case studies until Monday, May 25. You can also post your contribution on Monday.

      Warm regards to all,

      Jessie River Fagan [Facilitator]

    • Dear Participants,

      Thanks for all your contributions. It has been an interesting week. We have heard from policy makers (government), producer organizatoins and farmer's unions, academics researchers, NGOs, UN agencies, and those working at community level.

      The word education has repeatedly come up. This includes greater access to rural [quality] education and how access to education for older children remains an issue, including school fees. The important role of producer organizations and farmer unions has been expressed on several occasion. This includes giving farmers credit opportunities, raising awareness on hazardous work and child labour, providing shared opportunities for access mechanization and much more. Several participants brought up the concept of child labour free zones, which requires community level mobilization. Moreover, the need of an integrated approach which requires coherence between different ministries and stakedhoders has been mentioned on different occasions.

      Other interested points, among many, include the potential of territorial development approaches, the importance of rural consultation to child's rights organizations and how smallholder farmers could greatly benefit from various social protection mechanisn as well greater access to information related to price fluctuation. It was mentioned that policy enforcement is often an issue, while a policy to address child labour may exist at national level, limited action is done at local level which, at times, can be attributed to the lack of information on policies amongst local authories and limited knowledge capacity on concrete measures that can be taken at communtiy level.

      We would like to hear more from you, as well as newcomers, on:

      • Concrete measures that that have been put in place that have successfully reduced child labour in agriculture. Who have been involved in this process? 
      • How can we improve labour conditions for seasonal/temporarly agricultural workers and migrants. 
      • How can we address the hidden work on girls that interfere with schooling. 
      • Who are the different agriculture stakerholders that have a role to play in the fight against child labour in agriculture? What are there roles and how should they coordinate?


      We look forward to a continued discussion! Among the questions just listed, we remind participants to  list the number of question for which they are providing an answer. However, if the experience you would like to share does not fit into one of the questions, it is equally welcome.

      Warm regards,

      Jessie Rivera Fagan [Facilitator]

    • Dear Participants,

      Thanks to all of you for the sharing your insights, recommendations and posing questions related to the root causes of child labour and hazardous work to the wider community.

      Certification schemes certainly have strong potential to set environmental and social criteria based on consumer demand and can certainly be leveraged to set higher decent work standards for plantations and employers, including addressing child labour. To further add to this point, it is equally important to consider how these measures are being monitored in practice and ensuring that employers are not only abiding by legislation but also providing decent working conditions for agriculture agriculture workers (including formal contracts, fair wages, right to collective bargaining etc.) in order to address the root cause of child labour.

      An interesting contribution was this made this week on smallholder access to mechanization in order to address child labour in family farming. Moreover, there was also a question on whether children working in agriculture come to harm more frequently or experience different or more severe harm than adults. To briefly add to this point, we do know that risks are more acute to children under 18. The reason for this is that they are still growing both psychologically and physically. They have less natural defenses and have less cognitive maturity in terms of 'risk-taking' behaviours compared to adults. If we look at employment in all sectors, children and young workers display higher rates of injuries, and acute and chronic diseases compared to adults [1]. While it is challenging to find substantial evidence on the rates of injury and diseases amongst children in agriculture (harm incurred) for sub-Saharan Africa, it certainly remains an area where additional research seems critical. On a global scale, previous research (2006) suggests that the fataility rate in the agriculture sector is four times higher for young workers than in other industries [2]. Furthermore, the importance of addressing hazardous work in agriculture for all workers is essential, yet the fact that children are exposed to greater risk, would imply their need for particular attention.

      We encourage the continuation of the discussion on the points mentioned as well as contribution of research, experience, case studies and recommendations of the additional themes questions mentioned above.

      Thanks very much,

      Jessie Rivera Fagan [Facilitator]

      [1]: For more information on hazardous child labour please see the ILO pubication:…




    • Dear participants,

      Thanks very much for your valuable contributions to date. Many interesting examples have been provided over the past week. This includes how specific countries have successfully tackled child labour in agriculture through, for example, conditional monthly cash payment transfers to rural families who had been previously engaging their children in child labour in Brazil. Participants have also pointed out important considerations such as unequal power relations between value chain stakeholders and the need for more marginalized groups, including landless and contract farmers, to receive specific support to enhance their participation in decision-making. Among several interesting contributions, there has also been mention of the importance of additional research on rural labour shortages and child labour, the need to look at the mental health of current and former child labourers and the potential of trade mechanisms including multilateral accepted monitoring standards that could improve social commitments amongst exporting countries and address child labour in globally traded agricultural products.

      I encourage all participants to continue the discussion and new participants to share your experience based on the several questions listed above. To the extent possible, we encourage global, regional, national and community-based case studies on how certain policies or strategies have been effective and what has been the role of agriculture stakeholders in this process. Who have been involved in these policies or programmes from policy makers to rural community members? We kindly encourage you to list the theme or question for which you are providing your related experience.

      Thanks again and we look forward to a continued fruitful discussion over the coming weeks.

      Jessie Rivera Fagan [Facilitator]


    • FAO’s Child Labour in Agriculture Prevention team, Rome, Italy

      Regarding the fourth objective that focuses on human health impacts, it is also essential that the Code of Conduct adequately considers the health of all workers, including children.

      Today, 71% of all child labour occurs in the agricultural sector. In Africa alone, over 72 million children are engaged in child labour, 32 million of which is hazardous work. Beyond the numbers of children engaged in child labour, many more are also working in agriculture or helping their families on the farm. The prevalence of children engaged in agricultural activities and on farms should be considered when designing responsible systems of fertilizer management.

      Depending on the context, fertilizer application has the potential to create hazardous situations of child labour. This may include carrying heavy loads, excessive working hours or manually handling some chemicals that cause irritation. Unfortunately, child labour is often a hidden phenomenon, which is why the promotion of certain production systems and employment initiatives should remain child labour sensitive.

      As part of SDG 8.7, it is essential that we focus on child labour prevention in agriculture. Child labour also affects our ability to reach SDGs 1 and 2 on eliminating poverty and hunger; children engaged in child labour risk their healthy development and are less likely to become educated and access gainful, decent employment as youth or adults. They can easily become trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and low productivity with negative repercussions for the development and food security of rural communities.