Farming

Document | 31 January 2012

Child labour in farming, especially on family farms, is particularly difficult to tackle due to factors such as seasonality of agricultural production, migration, lack of technology, workplace hazards, limited access to schools, minimal regulations and enforcement, and ingrained attitudes about the roles of children in rural areas.

The majority of children in farming work on their parents’ farm as unpaid family labour. The work that children perform is often invisible and unacknowledged because they assist their parents, undertake piecework or work under a quota system on larger farms, sometimes as part of migrant worker families. In fact, especially on plantations, where remuneration of workers is based partly or wholly on task-work or piece-rate work, agricultural workers may be encouraged to use children to increase output, and hence income.

Family farm culture and tradition can make it difficult to distinguish between children’s participation in light work activities and child labour. Participating in some farm activities can give children an opportunity to develop skills and a sense of belonging to the community. However, this becomes a problem when farm tasks interfere with schooling and they are hazardous in nature.

Family farms are sometimes small-scale, subsistence enterprises, and in other cases can be very large, commercial corporations with numerous employees. Tasks and related health hazards can therefore vary widely depending on the specific farming environment.

Child labour in farming may involve: preparation of land, transport and planting of seedlings, weeding, applying fertilizers and spraying pesticides, harvesting, and processing of collected crops.

These tasks present many hazards such as: exposure to sharp tools (machetes) and dangerous machinery (tractors), risk of snakebites and injuries from other animals, exposure to extreme environmental conditions, and exposure to agrochemicals including inorganic fertilizers and pesticides.

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