Whittling down instances of child labour in agriculture

12 June marks the World Day Against Child Labour

10 Jun 2015

“Children subjected to child labour need our support and action so they can enjoy their right to education and health and become productive farmers and workers as adults to escape poverty and hunger.” - José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director- General 

Child labour is not unique to a particular country, ethnicity, culture, or ideology. Today, there are about 100 million boys and girls aged 5-17 still engaged in child labour in agriculture, one of the three most dangerous sectors to work in.

A typical day in the life of a child labourer in agriculture starts early where they spend their days working in the fields, herding livestock or cleaning fish to eke out a living. From a young age - 6 to 8 years -, this child is required to combine school with long working hours that takes its toll on their body. By the ages of 9-11, a child labourer is working longer hours and may have too much work or be too tired to attend school regularly. Statistics show that a large number of children quit school by the age of 14. At 15, the child has reached the minimum age for employment, but is often engaged in hazardous work with a limited or no education. Coming to a young adulthood they have few skills to obtain decent jobs and are trapped in unskilled employment, receiving low salaries and no social security.
This child is now an adult and an agricultural producer. Without education, they are less likely to adapt to shocks, manage their resources or adopt new technologies at hand to improve their income. For this adult, working conditions are precarious, which perpetuates the vicious cycle of rural poverty and affects the future life of their family.

Since 2007, FAO and its partners have joined forces to scale-up action to reduce and prevent child labour in agriculture, including fisheries, forestry and livestock. Country level activities are a central part of our action to reduce and prevent exploitation of children. For example, we build the awareness and capacity of agricultural stakeholders to address child labour in agriculture by bringing national labour and agricultural stakeholders together to develop and implement joint work plans.

In Cambodia, a national action plan to fight child labour in the fisheries sector was developed, while in Mali, FAO helped increase the level of knowledge on child labour in the rice and cotton value chains and the risks of pesticides for children. In Tanzania, child labour issues were integrated into a number of policies such as the National Human Rights Action Plan, and in Lao PDR, FAO worked to strengthen the capacity of provincial officers to address this issue. In Malawi, agricultural extension agents in all districts of the country were trained to reduce child labour.

A day in the life of a child living and learning in rural areas, whose rights are respected thanks to the approaches promoted by FAO and joint efforts with all our partners starts in the classroom. Benefitting from cash transfer programmes and free schools meals (FAO’s project Strengthening School Meal Programs under the Hunger Free Latin America and the Caribbean 2025 Initiative – as one example) the child, now between the ages of 6 and 11, is encouraged to attend school. Coming to 12-14 of age, he/she engages in safe agricultural tasks for limited hours, out of school time, and puts into practice the lessons they learned. Reaching 15-17 years of age, they go on attending secondary school and/or vocational training adapted to rural and agricultural settings. They learn about agribusiness and life skills that as a young adult (18-19) allow them to have better farm or non-farm employment opportunities.
This child is now an adult in good health and a productive and skilled worker able to support their family and community and pass on their education and experience to their children.

Join us in the fight against child labour in agriculture and spread the message on 12 June, during the World Day Against Child Labour, and beyond!

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