Geneva: Three United Nations agencies on 12 June joined two international research organisations and producer and worker unions in a campaign to combat the use of child labour in agriculture.
“Child labour in agriculture is a rural poverty issue and has to be handled with rural development-driven solutions,” said David King, Secretary-General of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP).
“A successful fight against hunger and poverty requires well-organised partners to work with,” declared King. IFAP is a global network linking farmers from developed and developing countries in setting common priorities.
The six bodies, marking the UN’s World Day Against Child Labour during the annual conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), signed an agreement launching what they termed a partnership to tackle the problem.
Experts say that some 70% of the estimated 218 million world total of child labourers according to latest UN figures in 2004, are employed in agriculture, and of these 132 million are between the ages of 5 and 14.
Many of these are in jobs that can undermine their health or lead to serious accidents including loss of limbs, including handling toxic pesticide, using dangerous cutting tools, working in extreme temperatures, or just working long hours.
Children help to produce cereals, cocoa, coffee, fruit, sugar, palm oil, rice, tea, tobacco and vegetables that are consumed in richer countries, the ILO said in a statement,
They are also employed in livestock raising and herding and in the production of raw commodities like cotton.
The partnership will aim to promote application of ILO child labour laws, especially against dangerous work in agriculture, bring child labour issues to the attention of national policy-makers, and promote youth employment in rural areas.
“A key to reducing child labour in agriculture is building strong rural unions, especially farmers’ organisations,” said IFAP’s King. “Unless the poor are organised, they will remain politically powerless and economically disadvantaged.”
Apart from the ILO and IFAP, the other bodies joining the initiative were the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the global union for workers in the food insutry IUF.