Child Labour in Agriculture

by Toluwalemi Oluwadare and Olalekan Abdulsalami. on 10 May 2019 • 1 comments
5 min read

"If we can't begin to agree on fundamentals, such as the elimination of the most abusive forms of child labour, then we really are not ready to march forward into the future.” 
- Alexis Herman

That is it. That is the entire article, so we could just end here and we still would have passed our message across. Child labour deprives children the opportunity to go to school and receive proper nutrition or care. Victims of child labour in agriculture are exposed to hazardous environments, slavery, or other forms of forced labour, illicit activities including drug trafficking and prostitution.

Can you imagine what it must feel like to be constantly one step from being sold into slavery, being a pawn in a drug trafficking ring or worse, just dying suddenly? This is what child labourers face every single day of their lives. 

The FAO defines child labour as work that is inappropriate for a child’s age, affects children’s education or is likely to harm their health, safety or morals. To move forward as a nation, we have to eliminate child labour. No holds barred. We all know this and have probably heard it hundreds of times. And yet, we let it slip. We either ignore it or refuse to give the 100% attention it requires.

To understand why we should be keen on eliminating child labour in Agriculture, we found some very disturbing facts and statistics;

  • Worldwide 218 million children between 5 and 17 years are in employment. Among them, 152 million are victims of child labour; almost half of them, 73 million, work in hazardous child labour.

  • Child labour is most prevalent in agriculture (which includes fishing, forestry, livestock herding and aquaculture, and comprises both subsistence and commercial farming) and accounts for almost 60% of all child labourers in the world.

  • In terms of prevalence, 1 in 5 children in Africa (19.6%) is involved in child labour.

  • Almost half of all 152 million children victims of child labour are aged 5-11 years. 42 million are 12-14 years old, and 37 million are 15-17 years old.

  • Hazardous child labour is most prevalent among the 15-17 years old. Nevertheless up to a fourth of all hazardous child labour (19 million) is done by children less than 12 years old.

In light of these facts, it is imperative to take a careful look at child labour in Agriculture because of the bold implications it has on our society. We are going be looking at the factors that cause child labour and the constructive ways to eliminate them. 

But first, let's talk about child labour and child work.

There are age-appropriate tasks that are of lower risk and do not interfere with a child’s schooling, family life, security, healthy upbringing and right to leisure time. Indeed, many types of work experience for children can be positive, providing them with practical and social skills for work as adults. 

This is child work and should be differentiated from child labour.

While child labour involves a push and pull factor - circumstances that force children to become child labourers - child work is harmless and a part of socialization. 

Therefore, not all work that children undertake in agriculture is bad for them or would qualify as child labour. 

What Causes Child Labour?

Generally, the factors leading to child labour can be explained under the push and pull factor. The ‘push’ representing the supply and the ‘pull’,  the demand side of the equation.

The former looks at the behaviour and the reasons for individual households to encourage the use of child labour. It also looks at the factors that prompt children to work. The latter looks at the behaviour and reasons why employers encourage child labour.

Push factors
  • Debt- Families may find it difficult to get loans and find themselves paying off debts by putting their children to work without pay.

  • Education-  Education is sometimes undervalued and parents, in this case, may skip the long-term investment in schooling and look for fast and short-term solutions to generate income.

  • Low income- families may depend on children to supplement household income in order to meet basic needs.

  • Tradition- The belief that the participation of children in agriculture is a way of life and necessary to pass on skills and knowledge so as to uphold the family business or legacy.
Pull factors
  • Housing- On some plantations, children may only be allowed to stay with their parents if they also work.

  • Docility- some employers prefer to hire child labourers because children are considered to be more docile and easily managed than adults.

  • Price- many small farms and rural enterprises are not very productive and operate on small margins. To keep own cost down, employers may resort to using child labourers who are paid less than adults or not paid at all.

  • Labour-supply- At peak times, like transplanting or harvesting crops, the supply of adult workers may be stretched. This increases the seasonal demand for child labourers.

What is the Way Forward?

Children are the future of any nation; however, engaging them in economic activities ought to be limited because of their ability, mentality and of course circumstances (attending schools). 

Education is one of the most powerful tools to combat child labour. Governments should provide incentives to children and families to ensure that children enrolled in school, remain there, and achieve academic success. And one proven method of providing such incentives is to provide conditional cash transfer programs whereby target families receive small sums of money to help ease the financial burden associated with sending their children who have been working to school.
Also, the government should define lists of hazardous labour in agriculture in line with the ILO Child Labor conventions and also make child labour a cross-cutting issue by increasing awareness on child labour in agriculture at all levels of government and promote policy coherence, within and between ministries.

12 June is World Day against Child Labour. As individuals, we can raise awareness to eradicate child labour in agriculture.

How do you feel about Child Labour? Do you have other suggestions that can help combat child labour? 

Let us know in the comment section below.


World Day Against Child Labour. Available at: < [Accessed 10 May 2019]

Child Labour in Agriculture. Available at: <[Accessed 10 May 2019]

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  1. Oluwatosin

    14 May 2019 AT 20:22 PM

    Hi, thanks for this write up......more knowledge .. Child labour, trafficking,forced labour,prostitution and more of its kind, I don't think this can or will ever be eradicated in Nigeria if things won't Change for better, if Nigeria herself won't take a step I mean a giant stride. Why did I say it won't ,from the write up there it was directed to the government to make provisions for the people of which you and I know this is not even in the governments plan for the next God knows years,they can only promise during campaigns and probably when there is much pressure from the masses then they bring up little things and start publishing over the news and social medias so so gave ,so so made provision for the people at the grassroot level at the end of the day the money budgeted won't leave their circle that's when the saying of u sabi person wey dey work for government office or house orlf rep ?.. What I'm I saying this eradication should start from the masses ,we shouldn't wait for governments who doesn't even care if 30k as monthly salary is OK for a family or not ,let the change begin from us and with us ,fine everyone is struggling to live no doubt but God has so much blessed people in the society that most people buys shirt for 100k eh you say what? Can't or won't 100k raise a family woman to start a petty trade e.g get a shop and start selling farm products like vegetables,pepper etc this are daily needs that never wares out and will make sales without getting their kids to hawk and will be able to afford a government sch even tho government schools ain't no more what it ought to be anymore ,people having 4cars of about 50m,30m, lowest 10m each in their compound while their neighbors can't even afford 001 daily . There is no way you can approach a father who strives to earn #500,mother #200 and when the child goes to the street he or she earns# 100 they add it up and making #800 in this Nigeria that we are in presently pls what does that cover up for ,so u will now tell that man to stop his children from Hawking or working has a bricklayer or whatever it is .... Let's not forget fingers ain't equal you can tell me Tosin I wasn't born with a silver spoon well I will agree with you but have you heard my own story ?no so if I am opportune not to hawk doesn't mean I have the life I desire ..... I was once at this position when I was 14,15,16 years myself and my twin sis had to go behind our parents to work as a labourer (bricklayer) it was hell,they didn't send us but we knew back then that we need go to school get books, pay some dues and things seems harder than all this to be sorted then we agreed on going out to fetch ,here I'm saying we can't blame parents for everything a child does ,this is a jet age the brain processes faster than for a child to sit back home waiting for his or her parent to bring garri n kuli for 001 ...... Let's look into the aspect of unemployment in the society ,not all graduates are dumb or dull or don't have ideas to build on ,I so much wonder why people open they mouth and say people are lazy or brainless that you are knocking and its opening for you doesn't mean you should regard others as fools,ain't they knocking as well ain't they running the race ,have you ever wondered why that young cool headed well presented guy with good spoken English is an okada man ? Or why that young lady is selling fish at the market .....frustration makes men n women go beyond .... I will use myself as a good example ,after my ND I was in search of where to sort my IT knowing fully I'm sponsoring my HND there was no luck OK myself n a friend decided to start a popcorn business at the road side where YES O! Will come and dramatize and leave after lots of bribes n pleas, there was sun,rain,thugs,vehicles to and fro express for that matter people see us and say different shits some insults our parents, some will say when they are asked to go to school they will be following guys around mehn different peoples with different stupidity level and all this was having a strong effect on us ,I was so frustrated that I was ready for anything that comes my way,then a friend told me there is a job outside Nigeria in fact she is gonna lend me money to make my documents haaa I jumped up paaapaapa oya within 3weeks everything don set ,I closed my eyes and open I don land for airport OK whats happening now lo and behold it was total slavery let me not package it ,most times we can't put things and blames on parents and governments you and I can make that Nigeria a better place and eradicate this child labour ,trafficking ,prostitution etc by using the little God has given us ,where you and I are today ,what we have we don't deserve it everything happens by grace ...that street that u see nah by grace no be who hustle pass,no be I get PHD, dey make am .... My points are..........let's not depend on government We shouldn't blame parents for everything (my father is not an illiterate well educated)and he never sent me to do any of the hustles but I wanted to be a better person on my own., Encourage those little ones you see in this condition,and explain how they can be a better person if they include education with whatever they are doing and u should also be ready to support with 1k, 2k, not some people that will instead ruin the already cracked child's with mouth and their silly adult manners ... Me ,you,us everyone no matter the stage we are together we can make a better Nigerian if we make a decision today ... Sorry for the long story ,thanks for having me .....Oluwatosin by name ....

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