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New FAO Guide Aims to Prevent Child Labour in Agriculture

22 June 2015

GLOBAL - A new guide by FAO aims to help ensure anti-child labour measures are included in agricultural and rural development programmes, in particular those targeting family farmers.

Programmes intended to boost local food production and support family farmers often do include components to address the issue of child labour in agriculture.

But sometimes they do not, and can even contribute to the problem when improvements in productive capacity lead to increased labour demands that are met through child workers. And many agricultural development programmes do not monitor or evaluate the impact they have or may have on child labour. FAO's new guide seeks to fill these gaps.

Worldwide, large numbers of children are involved in agricultural work. This is normal on family farms and - provided it stays within acceptable boundaries -- is not only beneficial for the farm but also allows children to acquire valuable knowledge and skills.

For about 100 million children, however, such work goes beyond what is acceptable - interfering with schooling or involving them in work that is hazardous and damaging to their health.

Easy-to-use tools

The Handbook for Monitoring and Evaluation of Child Labour in Agriculture provides an easy-to-use toolkit of research and data collection methods for assessing child labour in agriculture and the impacts that various types of development programmes can have. Additionally, it encourages the identification and use of good practices to prevent child labour.

The handbook also offers practical advice on how to collect information to track the impact of child labour on school performance and health.

The new guide is intended for use by agricultural organizations, NGOs, international organizations, agricultural ministries, policy-makers, and other actors involved in agricultural programmes, be they related to crop production, fisheries and aquaculture, forestry or livestock-raising.

"In recent years, we have seen an increase in awareness of child labour and its role in producing export crops such as cocoa, coffee and cotton," said Rob Vos, Director of FAO's Social Protection Division.

"As a result, we see much more effective action to prevent child labour in these value chains. However, child labour on family farms not connected to international commodity markets has remained largely untouched. The new guide tries to fill this void."

The new guide highlights the need to address child labour in family farming in an appropriate and context-sensitive way that respects local values and family circumstances. Social protection and poverty reduction programmes can be particularly effective in helping poor families to send their children to school and to avoid exposing them to hazardous work on the farm.

Promotion of labour-saving technologies can further help prevent child labour in agriculture by reducing the need for children's inputs while safer agricultural practices will reduce hazardous working conditions for all.

FAO developed the new guide in partnership with Humboldt University of Berlin.

Top Image Credit: nguyenkhacthanh / Shutterstock.com

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