People's Stories Livelihood

Child labour in agriculture is on the rise, driven by conflict and disasters
by ILO, Food and Agriculture Organization
June 2018 (FAO News)
After years of steady decline, child labour in agriculture has started to rise again in recent years driven in part by an increase in conflicts and climate-induced disasters. This worrisome trend, not only threatens the wellbeing of millions of children, but also undermines efforts to end global hunger and poverty, warned FAO today as it observed World Day Against Child Labour.
The number of child labourers in agriculture worldwide has increased substantially from 98 million to 108 million since 2012 after more than a decade of continuous decline, according to the latest estimates. Prolonged conflicts and climate-related natural disasters followed by forced migration have pushed hundreds of thousands of children into child labour.
Households in Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon, for example, are prone to resort to child labour to ensure the survival of their family. Child refugees perform a number of tasks: they work in food processing, green houses for tomato production, harvest potatoes, figs and beans. They are often exposed to multiple hazards and risks including pesticides, poor field sanitation, high temperatures, and fatigue from doing physically demanding work for long periods.
At the same time, efforts to eliminate child labour in agriculture face persistent challenges, due to rural poverty and the concentration of child labour in the informal economy and unpaid family labour.
FAO stresses that child labour in agriculture is a global issue that is harming children, damaging the agricultural sector and perpetuating rural poverty.
For instance, when children are forced to work long hours, their opportunity to attend school and develop their skills is limited, which interferes with their ability to access decent and productive employment opportunities later in life including opportunities in a modernized agricultural sector.
"Children who work long hours are likely to continue to swell the ranks of the hungry and poor. As their families depend on their work, this deprives the children of the opportunity to go to school, which in turn prevents them from getting decent jobs and income in the future," said FAO Deputy Director-General, Daniel Gustafson.
"Since more than 70 percent of child labour worldwide takes place in agriculture, it is vital to integrate child labour into national agricultural policies and address the issue at the household level. Otherwise, it will further exacerbate poverty and hunger in rural areas. We need to break this vicious circle if we want to achieve progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Zero Hunger is not possible without Zero Child Labour," he added.
What is child labour?
Child labour is defined as work that is inappropriate for a child''s age, affects children''s education, or is likely to harm their health, safety or morals. However, not all work carried out by children is considered child labour. Some activities may help children acquire important livelihood skills and contribute to their survival and food security.
Yet, much of the work children carry out in agriculture is not appropriate for their age. It is often hazardous and can interfere with their wellbeing. For instance, when children work on fields treated with pesticides, stay up all night on fishing boats, or carry heavy loads, it can interfere with their social and physical development.
FAO and its partners are trying to end the dependence of family farms and enterprises on child labour through improving skills of especially small family farmers, providing access to inputs and credit, especially for women, and implementing sustainable agricultural practices in order to improve productivity and make smallholder farms viable enough to employ adults in decent work. The Organization also supports countries in integrating child labour in national policy, legislation, programmes and strategies.
As part of its wider approach to eliminate child labour in agriculture, FAO promotes efforts to boost the incomes of rural families so that they have the means to send their children to school rather than work.
Some key facts:
• Nearly three out of every four children in child labour working in agriculture
• There are 10 million more children in agriculture since 2012
• Of the 152 million child labourers, the vast majority - 108 million - are engaged in farming, livestock, forestry or aquaculture.
• Nearly 70% of child labour is unpaid family labour.
• The incidence of child labour in countries affected by armed conflict is 77 per cent higher than the global average.
• Nearly half of all child labour in the world now takes place in Africa: 72 million, or one in five of Africa’s children, are in child labour and the vast majority is perfomed in agriculture, followed by Asia with 62 million.
Towards the urgent elimination of hazardous child labour. (ILO)
On World Day Against Child Labour 2018, the spotlight is on ending hazardous child labour. It is a priority in the wider ILO campaigns against child labour and for safe and healthy work for youth of legal working age – “Generation Safe & Healthy.”
About 73 million children are in hazardous work – almost half of the 152 million children aged 5 to 17 still in child labour. These children are toiling in mines and fields, factories and homes, exposed to pesticides and other toxic substances, carrying heavy loads or working long hours. Many suffer lifelong physical and psychological consequences. Their very lives can be at risk.
No child under the age of 18 should perform hazardous work as stipulated in the ILO’s Conventions on child labour, namely the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182). They require governments, in consultation with the social partners, to establish and enforce a national list of hazardous work prohibited for children. Ratification of these Conventions by 171 and 181 ILO member States respectively - close to universal ratification – reflects a commitment to end child labour in all its forms. It is time to step up action.
A new ILO report, Towards the Urgent Elimination of Hazardous Child Labour, finds that certain occupational hazards, including exposure to psychological stress and to commonly-used chemicals, are even more serious for children than previously thought.
Another key finding is that adolescence, as a period of physical maturation, may start earlier and last into the mid-twenties. Within this extended period of growth, children (and young adults), face a range of vulnerabilities that require responses in law and practice.
The report outlines the crucial and mutual link between education and health: lack of education increases the risk of negative health outcomes from work and conversely, quality education has positive and protective effects on health.
Although the overall number of children in hazardous work has decreased over the past years, progress has been limited to older children in hazardous work. Between 2012 and 2016, there was almost no reduction in the number of children aged 5 to 11 in child labour, and the number of these most vulnerable, youngest children in hazardous work actually increased. This is unacceptable.
The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda reaffirms the urgency of eliminating the worst forms of child labour, which includes hazardous work, the need to promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, and sets the target of ending all forms of child labour by 2025.
If we are to keep the solemn promises we have made to the world’s children, we must, once and for all, “turn off the tap” and stop children from entering child labour in the first place many of whom, especially in agriculture, commonly start when they are six, seven or eight years old.
* Twitter: World Day Against Child Labour:

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Greater funding needed to avert acute hunger and malnutrition in the Sahel
by WFP, UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs
24 May 2018
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock released today US$30 million from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to urgently scale-up relief efforts in West Africa’s Sahel, where an acute drought, combined with exceptionally high food prices and worsening insecurity, has escalated humanitarian needs.
Many thousands of families have exhausted their food reserves and are cutting down on daily meals. Up to 1.6 million children are at risk of life-threatening malnutrition, and five million people need food and livelihoods assistance in what is expected to soon be the worst lean season -- when food stocks deplete ahead of the next harvest - in years.
“To avert a catastrophe, we need to act early to get assistance quickly to the most vulnerable people. The window of opportunity to help these communities during the lean season and the most difficult months ahead is closing soon,” said Mr. Lowcock. “CERF is without question one of the most effective ways to get urgent aid to people who need it the most.”
The funds will enable humanitarian partners to reach affected people in the worst-hit communities, particularly in pastoral areas in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania. In Chad, where the number of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition has more than doubled over recent months, a $10 million allocation will provide food security and nutrition assistance for close to half a million people.
Burkina Faso is facing an upsurge in insecurity and the worst food insecurity in years. An allocation of $9 million will enable the provision of food assistance and the treatment of acute malnutrition in the most affected areas. In Mauritania, CERF has allocated $4 million to kick-start the provision of food, nutrition and livestock assistance as well as humanitarian air services. The remaining $7 million will support lifesaving activities in the most affected areas of Mali, which has also seen food insecurity increase by 50 per cent, compounded by the impact of ongoing conflict.
Additional funds are urgently required to sustain support to affected communities. “I thank all donors for their contributions to CERF without which we would not have been able to provide this urgent support,” said Mr. Lowcock. “But CERF funds alone are inadequate to tackle this crisis. I therefore call on all donors to do even more to help prevent a further deterioration of this situation. While we are responding to immediate life-saving needs of women, children and men, we must at the same time ensure that our response supports longer term solutions and resilience of the people of the Sahel.”
A total of $1.37 billion is needed to support most vulnerable people in drought-affected areas of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. At the end of May, joint appeals in these countries are less than 20 per cent funded.
Growing insecurity, including long-running conflicts around the Lake Chad Basin and in Mali, have uprooted hundreds of thousands of families in the Sahel, making the region home to some of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises. Around one in five people in need of humanitarian assistance in the world lives in the Sahel. Since 2017, CERF has allocated over $100 million for life-saving humanitarian response in the region.
May 2018
West Africa’s Sahel - humanitarian agencies warn millions will need food assistance this year. (World Food Programme)
The Sahel is an arid belt of land below the Sahara Desert that stretches across Africa, from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east. It is prone to drought and food and nutrition crises that are linked to climatic shocks and underdevelopment. During a major drought, humanitarian needs flare up. This year, six countries concentrated in the western side of the continent; Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal are of greatest concern. Erratic rainfall in 2017 ruined the harvest, decimated livestock and negatively affected livelihoods; this has led to the early onset of the hunger season.
Food security analysts say this is worst lean season in at least four years. People have run out of their food stocks much earlier than anticipated. Without support, people will have to go for longer without adequate food and nutrition. It also means that people will be forced to sell their few remaining assets like livestock on the cheap, and reduce the number of meals they eat. Cereal prices are high, making food inaccessible for the poorest. This has already been seen in villages such as in Mauritania.
More than five million people will need food assistance during the lean season a number that is only set to rise as new assessment results come in. Up to five million children risk suffering from acute malnutrition, including 1.6 million who are at risk of severe acute malnutrition.
The acuity of the suffering has intensified in recent years with conflict and insecurity, including extremism, making the situation harder. Fighting and insecurity are uprooting hundreds of thousands. The presence of armies, armed groups, and the restrictions of movements often imposed by these forces and governments mean that traditional ways of survival are much more complicated. Even aid workers cannot often reach people as they used to.
To save lives and avert a catastrophe in the Sahel, action is needed now. WFP and partners have started responding. It is a race against time to buy food and nutrition supplies and move them into remote locations where they will be needed before rains start and roads become impassable.
WFP urgently requires US$165 million to meet the needs of some 3.5 million people. Without it, WFP and our partners will be forced to reduce rations, and leave behind a significant portion of vulnerable people. Saving lives now is an imperative.

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