The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has urged nations to pay greater attention and allocate more financial resources to addressing child labour in domestic and local food supply chains and in subsistence farming where the vast majority of child labour in agriculture occurs.

The call for action was made as FAO observed World Day Against Child Labour on June 12 at a global conference ‘United to End Child Labour in Agriculture’, which the United Nations (UN) agency co-organised with the European Commission’s Directorate – General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO), and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Brussels, Belgium.

In his speech, FAO’s Director-General José Graziano da Silva said currently almost all dedicated financial resources for fighting child labour are channelled towards addressing child labour in global supply chains whereas the child labour situations in small-scale households remain largely neglected.

‘It is time we go beyond the exclusive focus on selected global supply chains and begin investing resources into tackling child labour in all situations. It is also essential to engage the agricultural workers and producer organisations’, he said.

He also mentioned the crucial role of the International Partnership for Cooperation on Child Labor in Agriculture founded by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), FAO and other partners.

“Only together we can create change for a better, healthier and more prosperous future for our children,” he said.

He commented that husehold poverty remains a common cause of child labour in agriculture, saying in this context, social protection programmes and school feeding initiatives that link with family farmers are proven to be good antidotes against child labour.

Child labour is defined as work that is inappropriate for a child’s age, prevents a child to benefit from compulsory education, or is likely to harm their health, safety or morals.

The FAO Director-General noted that not all participation by children in agriculture should be considered child labour, saying girls and boys learning how to grow vegetables or feed the chickens in their families’ farm can sharpen their skills and improve future livelihoods, he said.

“However, when children work many hours daily, when they do heavy work, when they carry out tasks that are dangerous or inappropriate for their age, when this impedes their education, this is child labour and needs to be eliminated,” he stressed.

Furthermore, when children work in fields where pesticides have been applied, stay up all night on fishing boats, carry heavy loads, or use chain saws in the forest, it can interfere with their social and physical development and hence the ability to access decent and productive employment opportunities later in life.

He stressed that Child labour in agriculture is a global issue that is harming children and damaging the agricultural sector by perpetuating rural poverty saying they will not be able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, if they continue to leave this by far largest group of child labourers in agriculture behind. ‘More investments and dedicated resources need to be allocated to addressing child labour in agriculture’, he added.

Of the 152 million children in child labour situations around the world more than 70 percent or 108 million girls and boys between the ages of 5 and 17 work in farming, livestock, forestry, fishing or aquaculture. The number of children in child labour in agriculture has increased by 10 million since 2012. Moreover, 85 percent of child labour in Africa is found in the agriculture sector.

Some of the key factors that contribute to child labour in rural areas are low family incomes and household poverty, few livelihood alternatives, poor access to education and limited labour law enforcement.

Meanwhile, 2017 findings on the worst forms of child labour report that Lesotho made a moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. The Ministry of Labor and Employment provided training to labour inspectors on new child labour laws and included a child labour module in its Labor Force Survey. In addition, the government pledged to use research to address child labour in the informal sector during the 2017 IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labor. However, children in Lesotho continue to engage in the worst forms of child labour, including in animal herding and commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking. Lesotho’s compulsory education age is below the minimum age for work, leaving children in between these ages vulnerable to child labour. The government also lacks sufficient programs to combat child labour.

Currently, the government has published no data on the prevalence of child labour, including its worst forms. In 2017, however, the Bureau of Statistics amended the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey and Labour Force Survey to include a child labour module.

Also in 2017, the Lesotho Population-based HIV Impact Assessment reported that the HIV rate in adults (ages 15–59) is 25.6 percent, the second-highest HIV rate in adults worldwide. Many children in Lesotho become orphans due to the high rate of HIV among adults. Children, mostly HIV orphans driven by poverty, migrate from rural to urban areas to engage in commercial sexual exploitation. Also, children with disabilities are vulnerable to the worst forms of child labour as they encounter difficulties accessing education due to ill-equipped educational facilities and untrained teachers.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported a 45 percent rate in birth registrations. Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) confirmed that the low number of birth registrations results in children becoming stateless. These factors increase the vulnerability of children to the worst forms of child labour, such as human trafficking.

2019 Child Labour was commemorated under the theme, ‘Children should not work in fields, but on dreams’.

Source: LENA 13/06/2019

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