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Agricultural mechanization and child labour in developing countries

Background study









Takeshima, H. and Vos, R. 2022 Agricultural mechanisation and child labour in developing countries. Background study. Rome, FAO.




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    Will promotion of agricultural mechanization help prevent child labour?
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    The FAO-IFPRI study, of which this policy brief is a summary, focuses on the use of tractors because they are among the most versatile farm mechanization tools and are universal power sources for all other driven implements and equipment in agriculture, with significant potential to replace animal draught power and human power, including children’s muscle power. Tractor use is typically also the first type of machine-powered equipment in use at lower levels of agricultural development, the context where most child labour is found. Mechanization is mostly assumed to reduce child labour, as it is expected to be labour saving in general. Yet, this is not always the case, as it has also been observed that the use of tractors and other machinery could increase children’s engagement in farm activities. This may be the case if, for instance, their use allows farms to cultivate larger areas, or if it leads to shifting chores of work from hired labor to family workers, e.g. for weeding edges of farmland not reachable by machinery. Evidence has been scant thus far, but the few available studies have mostly lent greater support to the hypothesis that mechanization reduces children’s productive engagement. Most available studies have focused on specific cases and based on scant data. The new FAO-IFPRI study provides a rigorous quantitative assessment for seven developing countries in Asia (India, Nepal and Viet Nam) and sub-Saharan Africa (Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania) based on comparable farm household survey data.
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    Guidance on addressing child labour in fisheries and aquaculture 2013
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    Child labour is a major concern in many parts of the world and it is estimated that there are some 215 million child labourers worldwide. Aggregate data indicate that about 60 per cent of child labourers – that is over 129 million children – work in agriculture, including fisheries and aquaculture. While there are limited disaggregated data on child labour specifically related to fisheries and aquaculture, case-specific evidence points to significant numbers. Children engage in a wide va riety of activities in capture fishing, aquaculture and all associated operations (processing, marketing and other postharvest activities), as well as in upstream industries including net making and boatbuilding. Children also perform household chores in their fishing and fish farming families and communities. When child labour is used as cheap labour to cut fishing costs, not only is harmful to the children, it may also have a negative effect on the sustainability of the fishery activ ity. Child labour appears to be particularly widespread in the small- and medium-scale sectors of the informal economy where decent work is poorly organised or absent. Although there is a widely ratified international legal framework to address child labour, – comprising ILO Conventions and other agreements, laws are effective only if they are applied and enforced, with incentives to ensure compliance. Addressing child labour is rarely high on the national agenda of social dialogue, legislation review and institution building. Its elimination is difficult because it is part of production systems, is nested in the context of poverty and relates closely to social injustices. Communities and institutions are often not fully aware of the negative individual and collective social and economic consequences of child labour. Practical and realistic pathways for improving the current situation and community engagement and buy-in are essential for successful results. More i nformation on child labour is needed to raise awareness at all levels. A critical first step towards eliminating child labour, in particular its worst forms, is to understand what constitutes hazardous work and what tasks and occupations are acceptable for children above the minimum legal age for employment. Not all activities performed by children are child labour. Convention on Minimum Age, 1973 (No 138), and Convention on the Worst Forms if Child Labour, 1999 (No. 182), define child labour on the basis of a child’s age, the hours and conditions of work, activities performed and hazards involved. Child labour is work that interferes with compulsory schooling and damages health and personal development. Concerted efforts are needed to effectively address child labour with multistakeholder participation and involving governments, development partners, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), employers’ and workers’ associations and other socioprofessional organization s, the private sector and communities (including children and youth). By applying holistic, participatory, integrated and feasible approaches, a better life for millions of children can be created.
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    Brochure, flyer, fact-sheet
    Women farmers and sustainable mechanization
    Improving lives and livelihoods in the Hindu Kush Himalaya
    2021
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    Mountain agriculture is physically demanding and time-consuming. Rural women, who mostly work as subsistence farmers while also performing domestic work and communal activities, often face a poverty trap, undermining their well-being. Despite increasing labour participation in this sector, women remain invisible as active players and agents of change. A range of new and inexpensive agriculture machinery, adapted to local conditions, could potentially enhance labour productivity, reduce work burden and drudgery, and enable women to gain new skills and knowledge that can transform rural gender relations and reduce inequalities. It could also allow them to shift from subsistence to more market-oriented farming. However, the extent to which these technologies are available, suitably introduced (by individual use or via extension services), or adopted by women farmers in the HKH is still not clear. The webinar series Through the webinar series, ICIMOD and FAO expect to create awareness and action around current mechanization gaps and help identify good practices and possible solutions for empowering women farmers in the region. The webinar series will discuss strategies contributing to the process of mainstreaming and institutionalizing successful efforts of agricultural mechanization for improving productivity while also reducing drudgery for women farmers. The role of the private sector in agri-mechanization The third webinar of the series aims to critically discuss alternative pathways to agricultural mechanization innovation, powered by local manufacturers and entrepreneurs, and the development of scale-appropriate machines and tools suitable for the sustainable development of hill and mountain farming systems. In this context, the webinar will focus on two key areas where the private sector can play a major role in agricultural mechanization. These are (i) supporting sustainable markets for manufacturing, supplying, and importing of machines, equipment, and spare parts; (ii) provision of mechanization hire services. The first webinar of this series, Episode I: The Nepal Chapter was organized on 5 March 2021 followed by Episode II: The Bhutan Chapter organized on 7 May 2021.

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