Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says that after years of steady decline, child labour in agriculture has started to rise in recent years due to increasing conflicts and climate-induced disasters.
Daniel Gustafson, FAO Deputy Director-General (Programmes), said this in Rome on Tuesday via a statement issued in commemoration of the 2018 World Day Against Child Labour.
In the statement e-mailed to News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, Gustafson noted that the worrisome trend, not only threatened the well-being of millions of children, but also undermined efforts to end global hunger and poverty.
He said that the number of child labourers in agriculture worldwide had increased substantially from 98 million to 108 million since 2012, after over a decade of continuous decline.
He said that over 50 per cent of global child labour was presently taking place in Africa, adding that 72 million children — or one in five of Africa’s children — were suffering from child labour, particularly in agriculture; followed by Asia with 62 million children.
“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,’’ he added.
Besides, Gustafson said that child refugees performed a number of tasks and were often exposed to multiple hazards and risks, including pesticides, poor field sanitation, high temperatures and fatigue from doing physically demanding work for long periods.
He noted said that efforts to eliminate child labour in agriculture had faced persistent challenges due to rural poverty and the concentration of child labour in the informal economy and unpaid family labour.
The FAO official stressed that child labour in agriculture was a global issue that was 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.
“And this interferes with their ability to access decent and productive employment opportunities later in life, including opportunities in a modernised agricultural sector,’’ he said.
Gustafson, however, said that since more than 70 per cent of child labour worldwide occurred in agriculture, it was vital to integrate child labour into national agricultural policies and address the issue at the household level.
He said that if child labour issues were not integrated into national agricultural policies, it would further exacerbate poverty and hunger in rural areas.
“We need to break this vicious circle if we want to achieve progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Zero Hunger is not possible without Zero Child Labour,’’ he said.
Gustafson said that FAO and its partners were striving to end the dependence of family farms and enterprises on child labour through the introduction of certain measures.
He said that the measures included improving skills of people, especially small family farmers, providing access to farm inputs and credit, particularly for women, and implementing sustainable agricultural practices, among others.
He said that the organisation was also supporting countries in their efforts to integrate child labour in national policies, legislation, programmes and strategies.