You may have heard that the future of agriculture depends on the youth. What is not emphasized is that children will grow up to become youths, therefore, in a way, the future of agriculture actually depends on the children.
Getting children involved in agriculture is not the easiest task. At such a young age, they are easily distracted and are only interested in things that seem like fun. Luckily, there are still some ways you can increase the involvement of children in agriculture.
Small gardens and agro tourist destinations are some of the more popular options. There are also ways you can pique their interest in the sector. For instance, in Britain, there is an initiative called Farmvention (where farming meets invention) which is aimed at getting primary school children to provide solutions for the everyday challenges that farmers in Britain face.
Last year’s challenge was to design a tractor for the future, design an environment for a flock of 100 laying hens, or design a new snack product from four British ingredients (milk, beef, beetroot or oats). Over 1,000 students submitted their entries and nine finalists were selected. These finalists were taken on fully funded farm visits, alongside other prizes.
Initiatives like Farmvention are a great way to get children interested in farming. There are many science, mathematics, and essay writing competitions but not enough agriculture-centric ones.
Agricultural competitions should be encouraged both at LGA, state, and national level with prizes and awards to be won. Nigeria can also adapt the idea of Farmvention, where the children offer viable solutions for agriculture and win prizes for their invention.
However, getting children involved in agriculture should not be at the detriment of their education or safety, as this can be considered child labor in agriculture.
Child Labor in Agriculture
Child labor, according to FAO, is defined as work that is inappropriate for a children’s education, or is likely to harm their health, safety, or morals.
In the United States, more than half of work-related deaths among children occur in Agriculture. In many other countries, child labor is mostly an agricultural issue. In Nigeria, a high 43% of children engage in child labor, with majority focusing in the fields of mining and agriculture.
Most children used in child labor are as young as 5 years old. Some of these children are taken out of school to focus on farming. They are also exposed to excessive sunlight, harmful farm machinery, and other occupational hazards. This could be a threat to their lives.
Some of the causes of child labor in Agriculture are poverty, limited access to education, inadequate agricultural technology, and cultural/traditional beliefs. If these issues are tackled, it could reduce the issue of child labor in agriculture.
Reducing Child Labor in Agriculture
Pay Farmers Better:
Without agriculture, the economic sector would not come to its full potential. The agricultural sector is responsible for employing about 70% of the nation’s labor force. At the core of this sector are the smallholder farmers. These farmers produce the food we eat everyday and also provide raw materials for other sectors. However, despite their significance, more than 72% of them live below USD 1.9 a day.
The prevalence of child labor is closely tied to the poverty faced by small holder farmers. In cases where they can’t afford to pay for labor, or machinery to enhance production, they engage in child labor. Another reason why child labor occurs is due to high cost of education. Farmers should be paid well enough to afford school fees and school supplies.
In Africa, about 72 million children are victims of child labor, with a vast majority taking place in agriculture. This means that about half of the child labor in the world takes place in Africa.
These children are deprived of an education and are exposed to danger and sometimes death, during the course of their “work.” However, we cannot win the fight against child labor without getting through the perpetrators first.
In the 18th and 19th century, children from poorer homes (aged 5 – 14) worked in Western nations and colonies. Today, child labor has become somewhat of a tradition for some families. They pass this act along from generation. Sometimes, the perpetrators are ignorant and do not even consider what they’re doing a crime.
Organizations against child labor should work on flyers and pamphlets to educate farmers on the dangers of child labor. They should also create awareness on the consequences of committing the crime.
Law Reinforcement on Child Labor Acts:
The Child’s Right Act in Nigeria clearly states that every child has the right to education and it is the responsibility of the parents to make sure they see them through school. The Act also prevents the child against child labor and exploitative labor. Nonetheless, child labor in agriculture is still prevalent in Nigeria.
An effective way of reducing child labor would be through punishment of offenders in accordance to the Child’s Right Act. Parents and Guardians who also neglect to send children to school should face the law.
As we celebrate Children’s Day today, let us do our part towards increasing children involvement in agriculture. The future of agriculture is in the youths, and children are tomorrow’s youths.