Supporting farmers is a step against child labour. That sentence may seem surprising, but the latest ILO and UNICEF global estimates confirm that over 70% of all child labour still happens in agriculture, mainly on small farms. The farmers and families affected represent a significant part of the 2.5 billion people worldwide whose livelihoods depend on agriculture. The FAO's impact of disasters and crises on agriculture and food security report tells us more about the growing effects of disasters on farmers.
How do disasters drive child labour?
Natural disasters are increasingly becoming a major driver of child labour. Striking in least developed and low to middle income countries, disasters significantly reduce farmer livelihoods. One of the most direct ways to measure this is by looking at loss of production. The FAO estimates that disasters caused a loss of livestock and crop production loss of over $108 billion USD 2008 to 2018 in least, low and middle income countries, where farmers are most vulnerable. This can cause children to give up education and work to help meet basic needs for themselves and their families. Supporting farmers' resilience in the face of more frequent and severe natural disasters is an important part of protecting children in agricultural communities from ending up in child labour and missing out on education.
Supporting Farmers helps advance progress across SDGs
In addition to natural disasters, the COVID-19 crisis has increased challenges for farmers to reach markets and keep their children in school. By investing to increase farmer capacities to learn and use better farm and business techniques, and to work together, agricultural communities can become more resilient and able to keep their children out of child labour, even in times of crisis. This is an important step on the path to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
"Targeted investment in all farm types is needed in order to enable farmers to succeed in the transition to more resilience against shocks and climate (SDG 13), competitive and safe production systems (SDG 8), and to achieve ‘Leaving no one behind’ (SDG 1). Population at risks require investments in housing, access to safe water and sanitation, electricity, to ensure health protection. Investments may cover perennial crops, small-scale processing, small stocks, irrigation, greenhouses, and home gardening for food and nutrition security (SDG 2 and SDG 8." (FAO 2021)
Rebuilding resilient farming - what does it look like?
In Mozambique, ECLT's project partner International Development Entreprise (ide) set up a scheme to support rural communities to help farmers get back on their feet, learn new farming technologies and improve food security called the Farmer Resilience and Rebuilding Initiative (FRRI).
Farmer Field Schools are part of the FRRI, and aim to improve farmer family livelihoods through technical farming and business skills trainings. Farmer Field Schools are adapted to the context, supply and demand of local markets so that farmers always have a place to sell their products. Local trainers work with community members to learn about land preparation, sowing, fertilisation, pest and disease control, and other activities before and after harvest. Basic business skills such as profit calculation, record-keeping, and marketing are also providing farmers with ways to diversify their income and become more resilient to poor yields and economic shocks.
"New farming technologies and financial training changed everything in my community. I was able to take out a small loan to invest in a tunnel and seeds, and within a few months I had made enough profits from selling cabbages not not only repay the loan but also to renovate my house and buy bicycles for my children to attend school" explained Marcos from Angonia
New farming technologies like greenhouses boost crop fertility and protect valuable crops from natural disasters such as droughts, soil erosion and other unpredictable weather events. ECLT is supporting schools tunnels to grow vegetables like tomatoes, onions, kale and cabbage for school meals and to teach children about safe farming. In one season a tunnel in Chokwe in Angonia district, for example, harvested 40kg of tomato, 78kg of cabbage, 15kg of onions and 900 lettuces for the local school, enough food for a whole school term.
Getting children back into school
Quality education is a key part of putting children on the paths to get out of child labour and reach their potential. Over the next three years, training for teachers and improved facilities and materials will encourage children to join or stay in school. By supporting schools to be a happy, safe and welcoming environment, children are more likely to remain in education and away from dangerous work in fields.
ECLT working with FAA, have also set up afterschool programmes like children’s parliaments as a school club to establish a formal space where children can learn about promoting and protecting their rights. Over 200 children have been involved since the cyclones with topics focusing on child labour, environment, health and education.
According to a mid-term assessment carried out in July 2021, as a result of ECLT-funded projects school attendance rates has increased from 63% in 2018 to 88%.
In 2018, the ECLT Foundation joined together with the Government of Mozambique in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to create a platform to combat child labour and strengthen children’s rights, particularly those in rural areas where tobacco is grown. During a 3 year period, the partnership has focused on getting children out of child labour, community education and training, awareness and communication, institutional capacity building and revising legal frameworks.
article revised 23 Sept 2021