Urgent action needed to stop child labour in Africa, as COVID-19 pushes more children into work
Urgent action needed to stop child labour in Africa, as COVID-19 pushes more children into work

FAO Regional Office for AfricaDownload logo
Urgent action is needed to address child labour in Africa’s agriculture sector, participants heard at a regional conference hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) held today.

Latest estimates show there are more children in child labour in Sub-Saharan Africa (86.6 million) than in the rest of the world combined, and the vast majority, four out of every five children, are engaged in child labour within the agriculture sector. Root causes include household poverty, limited access to quality education, inadequate labour-saving technologies, and traditional attitudes towards children’s participation in agriculture.

“We need zero child labour in agriculture to achieve zero hunger, and we need to act now,” said FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa Abebe Haile-Gabriel in his opening remarks at today’s event. He noted that “climate change, inequality and poverty continue to pose challenges to rural livelihoods where child labour is often used as a negative coping mechanism,” and urged greater leadership from agricultural stakeholders across Africa to accelerate action.

“There is no justification whatsoever for having millions of African children in child labour,” said Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa. “It is unacceptable that this number is likely to go up due to COVID-19. It is untenable that half of these children are in hazardous work that puts their safety, health and sometimes their lives at risk. It is indefensible that almost a third of them don’t go to school. Child labour is a grave problem that requires us to take drastic action,” she said.

The event, hosted by FAO’s Regional Office for Africa, brought together stakeholders from across the continent to engage on fast-tracking solutions to ending child labour in agriculture in Africa. Participants included technical experts, government representatives, financial institutions, farmers’ groups and labour organizations. Today’s event is part of a series of regional events around the world ahead of FAO’s high-level Global Solutions Forum: Acting Together to End Child Labour in Agriculture, in November.

The problem

Child labour in agriculture harms children, damages the agriculture sector and perpetuates rural poverty.  It is defined as work that is inappropriate for a child’s age, affects their education, or is likely to harm their health and safety. Much of the work children carry out in agriculture is unpaid and takes place within the family unit. It could include carrying very heavy loads, coming into contact with hazardous pesticides and other chemicals, or working extremely long hours.

Globally, there are 160 million children in child labour. The International Labour Organization and UNICEF estimate that the economic impacts of COVID-19 may drive millions more children around the world into work.

Through the Sustainable Development Goals (Target 8.7), countries have committed to ending child labour in all its forms by 2025, but progress is not on track to meet this target. Eradicating child labour globally will not be achieved without a breakthrough in Sub-Saharan Africa, and particularly in agriculture.

What can be done?

Recommendations discussed at today’s event include supporting decent livelihoods for smallholder farmers such as through social protection, stronger and better organized producers’ groups, integrating child labour prevention into the design of investment programmes for agriculture and rural development, and introducing labour-saving technologies.

Among those at today’s event reaffirming their pledge for greater action was Godfrey Bahiigwa, the Director of Agriculture and Rural Development at the African Union Commission.

“The African Union is committed to accelerating the achievement of SDG 8.7 and reducing child labour in Africa, and using its political and convening capacities to drive greater coordination of implementation efforts across the continent,” he said.

Taking action to end child labour

Through the Framework on Ending Child Labour in Agriculture, FAO works with agricultural stakeholders and rural communities to improve livelihoods and promote good and safe agricultural practices so that families can afford to send their children to school, rather than to work. FAO also works with national governments to advocate for policy and program changes to end child labour. 

The European Union has co-funded a multi-year, multi-country FAO project to support cotton farmers to expand their livelihoods and send their children to school instead of to cotton fields. The CLEAR Cotton Project is implemented by ILO in collaboration with FAO in Burkina Faso, Mali and Pakistan.

In Uganda, teenagers at risk of falling into labour instead attend Junior Farmer Field Schools, or ‘schools without walls’, where they learn relevant skills including innovative agricultural practices.

2021 is the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour which aims to drive progress at local, national and international levels.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of FAO Regional Office for Africa. article.gif?aid=552632983&section=www

European Union continues to support Eswatini’s food insecure people through the World Food Programme
European Union continues to support Eswatini’s food insecure people through the World Food Programme

World Food Programme (WFP)Download logo
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is grateful a generous contribution of €500,000 (US$ 423,500) from the European Union (EU) that will help meet the needs of 53,600 vulnerable Swazi households through cash transfers.

The EU’s funding will be used to scale up WFP’s cash transfers operations to reach families hardest-hit by the impacts of a poor harvest, rising food prices and the prolonged secondary effects of COVID-19 in the rural, urban and peri-urban areas of the Manzini, Lubombo and Hhohho regions. According to a recent government-led assessment by the Eswatini Vulnerability Assessment Committee, close to 27 percent of Eswatini’s population (317,000) will be at high risk of hunger over the next six months.

Monthly cash transfers will be delivered via a mobile money platform established in partnership with mobile service provider MTN. The money can then be used to purchase food items at selected stores that are owned and operated by local retailers, which in turn helps boost the local market.

“We thank the European Union for continuing their support, allowing WFP and the government to provide much needed assistance to vulnerable people affected by COVID-19 and climate shocks”, said Deepak Shah, WFP’s Head of Office in Eswatini. “This timely contribution will help WFP change lives by improving the food security and nutrition of children, orphans, pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as people living with HIV and AIDS.”

The Cash-Based Transfer programme will also continue to integrate Social Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) to provide knowledge and information on basic hygiene for prevention of COVID 19, as well as knowledge on nutritional practices to enhance purchasing choices for households to meet their nutritional needs.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Food Programme (WFP). article.gif?aid=552625910&section=www

European Union provides emergency cash assistance in Zimbabwe
European Union provides emergency cash assistance in Zimbabwe

European Union provides emergency cash assistance and nutrition support to people facing extreme food insecurity in Zimbabwe

The European Union has contributed EUR 3 million to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Zimbabwe. Funding will be used to support highly vulnerable people living in urban communities who are struggling to meet basic food needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The contribution, made through the EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Department (ECHO), will come in the form of cash assistance used to support beneficiaries of WFP’s Urban Social Assistance and Resilience Building Programme. Recipients will receive USD 12 per person, per month via either e-voucher or Western Union cash transfer – to help cover basic food needs such as maize meal, cooking oil and salt.

“At the EU, we are committed to working with partners like WFP to bring life-saving assistance to vulnerable populations, most of whom are struggling to make ends meet in these challenging times,” said EU Ambassador Timo Olkkonen. “But our assistance can never cover all those in need, only sound public social policies and sustainable economic growth based on political and economic reforms can.”

WFP Zimbabwe Country Director and Representative Francesca Erdelmann said the already dire food insecurity situation in urban and peri-urban areas has been further exacerbated by restrictive measures implemented to curb the spread of COVID-19. This has resulted in the loss of urban livelihoods and income.

“Urban populations face high living costs to obtain basic food needs, along with other critical items such as rent, water and electricity. We are seeing a 30% increase in the average price (in ZWL) of basic food items (maize meal, maize grain and sugar beans) in the first half of 2021 (Jan-Jul), when compared with the second half of 2020. Cash assistance can help to ease the burden for households, providing people with greater autonomy when planning monthly expenses.”

According to the 2020 Urban Livelihoods Assessment, 2.4 million urban dwellers are estimated to be cereal insecure. The findings, released by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) in March 2021, show increasing food insecurity of vulnerable households by 12% since 2019. This is due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures that have resulted in the widespread loss of urban livelihoods.

WFP is assisting 326,000 people, based on available resources. With the support of our partners, WFP aims to reach up to half a million people in urban areas by end of the year.

A total of USD 88 million is needed to support growing humanitarian needs in urban locations.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Food Programme (WFP). article.gif?aid=548509186&section=www