We can end it.
Child Labour in Tobacco Growing
Tobacco is grown in more than 100 countries.
Although 90% of the world’s tobacco production and sales takes place in only 20 countries, tobacco growing is an inherent part of the history, culture, and livelihood of many societies. As a major cash crop, tobacco provides income to millions of farmers and communities.
Child labour often occurs in tobacco-growing areas, and particularly in countries that are constrained by widespread poverty; are under development; and have political and social instability, low levels of education and awareness, a deficit of decent work opportunities, and poor infrastructure and social programmes.
The ECLT Foundation has commissioned several external baseline surveys to examine the extent and nature of child labour in tobacco growing in the areas where we work or plan to work. (These studies are available upon request. Contact us for more information.)
One 2008 study assessed two tobacco-growing districts in Malawi: Suza in Kasungu district and Katalima in Dowa district.
There, we found that 57% of all children—in these two districts alone—were involved in activities indicative of child labour. Further, 63% of children of tobacco-growing families and 51% of children of non-tobacco-growing families were involved in child labour.
Children engaged in child labour in tobacco growing are involved in many types of tasks, as shown in the Report on Child Labour in the Tobacco Growing Sector in Africa (2000).
Further, the 2008 study showed 36% of all children from tobacco-growing families—and 43% of children ages 6-11 years old—were undertaking tobacco-related work for more than 14 hours a week, thus defining it as child labour.
In addition, 32% of children in tobacco-growing families were exposed to hazardous work environments, and 24% of children were working applying chemicals.
Get more data on child labour from this 2008 study.
There are many challenges to eliminating child labour in tobacco growing:
- Many countries lack the social and political structures to protect children.
- While international child labour policies exist, some countries exclude agriculture from labour legislation or have lower age requirements for working in agriculture.
- Parents in tobacco-growing areas may not have the means to send children to school—or schools are not accessible. As a result, many children grow up involved in labour and without education.
- In Africa, there are a large number of orphans who have lost their parents as a result of HIV-AIDS and other health issues and out of necessity have become the heads of their households. This adds to the prevalence of child labour.
The ECLT Foundation was established to help address these challenges.
Through our project implementation, global advocacy, public policy, and research, the ECLT Foundation is working to uncover and mitigate the root causes of child labour in tobacco growing and implement solutions to keep children safe.
We bring to each of our project countries our focus on five strategic objectives. We share resources including the ECLT Foundation Practitioner’s Manual for tobacco-growing farmers. We also promote multi-stakeholder engagement in sharing information and strengthening communities.
We are realizing progress.
While our results are promising, our work must continue until child labour in tobacco growing is fully eradicated.
We believe tobacco-growing communities can be—and should continue to be—safe places where child labour laws are recognized and followed, and where children and young people are given opportunities to live, learn, and thrive.
- Child labour in tobacco growing – like child labour in many agricultural industries – is inherently dangerous.
- Children’s health, wellbeing, and opportunities for a better life are often the cost of children’s involvement in hazardous child labour.
- Child labour in tobacco growing can pose health risks, including green tobacco sickness, which can cause fatigue and nausea.
- The essential standards of health and safety in tobacco growing applied to adults are not sufficient for youth and children.
- The International Labour Organization Convention No. 182 calls for eliminating the worst forms of child labour without delay.
Pledge in Action
The Pledge of Commitment by ECLT Foundation Board Members marks significant progress in eradicating child labour by aligning stakeholders throughout the entire tobacco supply chain. The Pledge asserts:
“There shall be no use of child labour. There shall be no forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale, trafficking, debt bondage, or forced labour of children, or other worst forms of child labour, including hazardous work. Children of legal working age shall not perform hazardous work, as defined by national regulatory frameworks, which by its nature, or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm their health, safety, or morals.”