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FAO warns against Child labour in agriculture

June 13, 2018

‘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 yesterday as they observed World Day Against Child Labour.

The organization noted that 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.

It states that prolonged conflicts and climate-related natural disasters followed by forced migration have pushed hundreds of thousands of children into child labour.

The UN agency further observed that households in Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon, for example, were prone to resort to child labour to ensure the survival of their family.

‘Child refugees perform a number of tasks: they work in garlic 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,’ the release states.

‘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 and that 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 (Programmes), 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.