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FAO works towards eliminating child labour in agriculture

With agriculture accounting for the bulk of child labour globally and the numbers involved growing, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) is stepping up its work with partners on eliminating child labour in key sectors including cocoa, cotton and coffee

The latest initiative unveiled on 12 June maps out ways of using innovative blockchain technology for monitoring and prevention. Driven by poverty and a growing global food insecurity crisis, child labour is three times more prevalent among rural smallholders in farming, fisheries or forestry than in urban areas and is often the result of complex economic and social vulnerabilities and shocks.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 8.7 aims at the elimination of child labour by 2025. Ajoint report by the International Labour Organisation and the UN Children's Fund UNICEF in 2021, indicated that more than 160 million children worldwide were still engaged in child labour, with 86.6 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

FAO chief economist Máximo Torero said that the FAO and agricultural stakeholders had a critical responsibility, alongside partner organisations to work to address the issue, stressing that doing so required a multi-faceted and integrated approach. Among the initiatives the organisation has engaged in are:

  • Through the CLEAR Cotton Project, FAO, in partnership with the European Union (EU) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), has successfully addressed child labour in cotton value chains in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Pakistan. The initiative reached more than 10,000 women, men, youth and children. As part of the project, FAO contributed to households’ livelihoods improvement, women’s economic empowerment and enhanced awareness on safe and age-appropriate farming skills.
  • The FAO will also collaborate in a new US$10.69mn European Union initiative on Ending Child Labour in Supply Chains, working in partnership with the EU, ILO and UNICEF to address root causes of child labour in the coffee value chains of Uganda, Honduras and Vietnam. The FAO will focus on strengthening the livelihoods of small-scale farmers in areas hit by the effects of climate change, to reduce their dependence on child labour. The project will emphasise the empowerment of marginalised groups – including women, youth, children, and indigenous communities.
  • The FAO has organised a Global Solutions Forum in collaboration with ILO and the International Partnership for Cooperation on Child Labour in Agriculture, to showcase concrete solutions in different agriculture sub-sectors and selected value chains.
  • The FAO has established the Child Labour in Agriculture Prevention Facility, in line with the focus on increasing investments in rural areas and particularly small-scale producers, which was central to the Durban Call to Action. This landmark document was adopted by delegates at the fifth Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour on 20 May 2022. The FAO’s longstanding advocacy efforts helped to ensure that ending child labour in agriculture was a top priority in the document.

In the latest development, the FAO and Wageningen University and Research on 12 June, released the paper: 'Digitalisation and child labour in agriculture: exploring blockchain and Geographic Information System to monitor and prevent child labour in Ghana’s cocoa sector'. The paper explores the potential application of innovative technologies, particularly blockchain and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to improve data collection and risk estimation of child labour in the cocoa sector. Furthermore, the paper sets out 13 key data elements (KDE) for child labour monitoring and remediation.