10 good practices to address child labor in agriculture
MANILA, Philippines – The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in partnership with the Humboldt University of Berlin, recently released a guide that aims to make sure anti-child labor measures are included in agricultural and food security programs.
The Handbook for Monitoring and Evaluation of Child Labour in Agriculture features an “easy-to-use” toolkit that provides program planners and implementers, agricultural ministries and officials, policy-makers, and local and international groups with research and data collection methods to assess the impact of agricultural practices on child labor.
According to the handbook, several of the existing programs focused on boosting local food production and supporting family farmers still do not have components that address the plight of child workers.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) noted that there are about 168 million child laborers in the world. In the Philippines, there are around 2.1 million child workers aged 5 to 17, many of whom are found in the agricultural sector. (READ: Study: At least 1 in 5 PH households tolerates child labor)
Child laborers are exposed to hazardous working conditions that affect their health. Such conditions hinder them from completing their education and jeopardize their chances of having a better future. (READ: Negligence, child labor seen in Bulacan warehouse accident)
The FAO handbook thus provides a list of recommended practices that can possibly help reduce instances of child labor in agriculture.
Based on examples provided by the ILO, these practices emerged from different efforts seeking to prevent children at risk from becoming child laborers, to abolish hazardous working conditions, and to withdraw and rehabilitate children from the worst forms of child labor.
Here are some of the good practices:
1. Raising awareness about the issue
Fighting child labor begins with an informed community. Campaigns focused on spreading information about the causes, worst forms, common areas, and the negative effects of child labor on both the children and the future development of the country must be created. Citizens must also be informed about the differences between child labor and age-appropriate tasks for kids.
Different stakeholders, including policy-makers, local government authorities, and farmers’ organizations, should also make themselves aware of other related issues like occupational safety and health concerns, national legistlation, international obligations, and the consequences of child labor to various sectors.
2. Alternative sources of livelihood and promoting decent work in rural areas
The government and interested parties must work together to provide alternative sources of livelihood to the parents of child workers. Self-help groups can be established to provide seed money to vulnerable families as well. (READ: DOLE gives P11-M aid to parents of child laborers)
Access to production resources, especially agricultural land ownership, must be given to farming families to reduce rural poverty. Easy access to markets should also be facilitated for small scale farmers through inclusive business models.
3. Pushing for advocacies that aim to create or reform policies
Advocacy groups, non-governmental organizations, and even the media can work together to change public opinion about child labor. Advocates, for example, can push for new school policies that will provide working students with healthy and safety information about working part-time.
4. Removal of child laborers from hazardous working conditions
This will require the construction of safe shelters for former child workers. At the political level, leaders can legislate the institutional support for ex-child laborers, which may include legal protection and repatriation to their families.
5. Support programs for ex-child workers
Once removed from slave-like working conditions, former child laborers should be given vocational training to raise their skills. The government should also give them support when they reach the legal age and begin looking for decent employment.
6. Occupational safety and health legislation, policies, and programs
These can be ensured through establishing joint training sessions for labor inspectors and extension agents and by organizing training sessions on how to improve health and the working conditions in agriculture.
Public-private partnerships must also adopt responsible business principles to avoid perpetuating child labor.
7. Skills development
Citizens whose age is above the minimum legal working age can be provided with vocational or on-the-job training.
8. Formal and non-formal education
Efforts must be made to provide quality education to all children, including the construction of proper classrooms, improving school curricula, and building the capacities of teachers.
9. Developing the vocational training skills of ex-child laborers
Former child workers, provided that they are old enough to work legally, must be provided with programs that aim to build their entrepreneurial skills. They should be taught how to become productive, reliable, and independent adults.
10. Social activities
Social reintegration strategies must be implemented to ensure the children’s ability to thrive within their respective communities. These may include acitivities like sports festivals, out-of-town trips, and even spiritual retreats, which will allow the children to build friendships, form camaraderie, and develop other social skills.
Filling the gaps
The FAO guide highlights the need to solve child labor in family-based agriculture in “an appropriate and context-sensitive way that respects local values and family circumstances.”
“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 FAO Social Protection Division director Rob Vos.
“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,” Vos added.
With support from different sectors, localizing some of the recommended practices from the FAO handbook may just help the Philippines curb the number of child laborers in the country. – Rappler.com
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