Ms. Jessie Rivera Fagan
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.
Ms. Jessie Rivera Fagan
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.