A REPORT released by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in Rome, Italy, yesterday paints a bleak picture of the agriculture sector as it indicates that widespread child labour still occurs in the livestock farming sector worldwide.
The FAO report titled 'Children's work in the livestock sector: Herding and beyond,' the first of its kind by the organisation, points out that agriculture accounts for most reported cases of child labour in the world, with livestock farming accounting for 40 percent of that.
Livestock farming is a source of income and food security for 70 percent of the world's 880 million rural poor who live on less than $1 (N$8.8) a day, the report says.
Child labour in the livestock sector appears to be widespread in Namibia too as many communal and commercial farmers make use of the services of children to look after their livestock on a full-time or part-time basis.
The International Labour Organisation representative in Namibia, Simone Shihepo-Mulamata, said as part of Child Labour Day in June last year that child labour is a reality in Namibia, particularly in the northern regions where children are employed as farm and domestic workers and are recruited to look after cattle and goats.
She said that Namibia was on the right track to eliminate child labour by the year 2016.
The ILO project coordinator pointed out poverty, lack of access to quality education, lack of decent employment for adults and HIV-AIDS as the main reasons for the state of affairs.
Meanwhile, a 2009 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labour report by the United States Department of Labour indicated that children are exploited in the worst forms of child labour in Namibia.
It said a staggering 91,4 percent of child labour takes place within the agricultural sector, while 8,2 percent happens in the services sector. A further 0,4 percent of child labour takes place in the manufacturing industry, according to the report.
"Although evidence is limited, there is reason to believe that children are trafficked for many purposes, including domestic service, commercial sexual exploitation, agricultural labour, cattle herding, and charcoal production," the report reads.
However, a 2009 qualitative assessment of human trafficking in Namibia conducted by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare identified only a small number of child-trafficking victims.
An investigation by the Namibian government stated that significant gaps remain in the Namibian legal framework to protect children against the worst forms of child labour, and social programmes do not sufficiently address the needs of children working as domestic servants or in agriculture.
The FAO report says that "efforts to curb child labour will require getting governments, farmer organisations and rural families directly involved in finding alternatives to practices which often reflect the need for survival". The FAO report maintains that hazardous or potentially harmful work for children in the livestock sector has received less attention than child labour in other areas of agriculture, where much more has been done by international organisations, governments, civil society and rural families to address the problem.
The report suggested that more research on factors involved in child labour and ways to reduce it must be done while
national regulation and policies to improve livelihoods and educational options for families should be promoted.
The report says that many rural families are willing to send their children to schools only if such education is of a good level and linked to their way of life.
The report added that "reducing child labour in agriculture is not only an issue of human rights, it is also part of the quest for truly sustainable rural development and food security".
The Namibian Labour Act sets the minimum age for work at 14, while the Constitution sets the minimum age for hazardous work at 15 and prohibits children from employment that is likely to harm their physical health or mental, spiritual, moral, or social development, or would interfere with their education.