27 August 2013

Tanzania: Tobacco Farms Notorious for Worst Forms of Child Labour

AT Iyombakuzova village in Sikonge District, a middle aged farmer arranges tobacco in the barn while several children are bringing more of the crop to him from where they have been sorting it out.

"Before arranging it (tobacco) in the barn, children help me to sort it out for 50/- per bundle," says Juma Maganga, a tobacco farmer, adding: "It is after making an announcement to call up labourers that we discover that those turning out for the job are mostly children."

This is a common practice across Sikonge and Urambo districts in Tabora Region, where tobacco is the major cash crop. In many developing countries, however, child labour is rampant at the household level and in plantations. The Urambo District Senior Community Development Official, Mr Sabala Rukonda, says most tobacco farmers opt for children because they are readily available to satisfy a huge manpower demand in agriculture.

"These children use dangerous tools, are exposed to pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and carry heavy loads," he says. The Sikonge District Acting Education Officer, Mr Ernest Simbamwene is worried that most rural primary schools experience poor attendance of pupils during the farming season between January and May.

"Many children tend to abscond because they are being used as labourers by tobacco farmers," he says. Mr Simbamwene also complains that since tobacco farming takes time and needs a big number of manpower, many farmers opt for school children who are a source of cheap labour.

Sikonge District Commissioner, Ms Hanifa Selengu, says the government has taken note of the bad practice and has introduced committees which have been tasked to tackle the problem at the ward level. Parents or guardians whose children are absent from school are being summoned for questioning before legal procedures are instituted.

According to International Labour Organization, the causes of the Worst Forms of Child Labour in tobacco plantations in Tanzania are linked to poverty; 84 per cent of the parents of children working on the farms come from poor and very poor socio-economic backgrounds.

In rural areas, children involved in Worst Forms of Child Labour are either school drop outs, have never been to school or are combining work and school with education getting a lower priority. In 2001 Tanzania ratified ILO convention 182, which calls for timely measures to eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2015.

Minister for Labour and Employment, Ms Gaudentia Kabaka, says the government has introduced the number of initiatives to combat the child labour problem, saying the programmes aim at empowering parents and guardians economically. "The programmes on combating child labour provide parents and guardians with training on entrepreneurship and capital to run business so that they should no longer depend on their children to be breadwinners," she says.

National plans of action for the elimination of child labour, adopted in both Mainland and Zanzibar, have sought to incorporate these international standards into national law. The law of the Child Act 2009 and the Employment and Labour Relations Act 2004 prohibit all forms of child labour for children under the age of 14, and only allow light work for children aged 14-18 years.

The basic principle is that work engaging children must not interfere with education, must not be harzadous and must not be carried out at night. According to United Nation's Children Fund (UNICEF) recent report titled Cities and Children; The Challenge of Urbanization in Tanzania, one in five children from five to 17 years of age is engaged in child labour, including slightly more boys than girls.

The report points out that the urban centres is 7.6 per cent, compared to 24.8 per cent in rural areas where children typically contribute to the farm economy. Almost one in every 20 children is reported to be away from home because of work.

Of those involved in child labour, about 5 per cent work in hazardous occupations. The National Action Plan for Elimination of Child Labour highlights key stakeholders and ministries responsible for child labour interventions and proposes strategic including poverty alleviation, capacity building for enforcement and protection mechanism and monitoring and evaluation to combat the Worst Forms of Child Labour.

A number of other government policies child labour, National Costed Plan of Action for Most Vulnerable Children 2007-2010, which includes child labourers among its most vulnerable children; the National Employment Policy 2007, which requires the government and partners to provide child labour guidelines and programmes.

The government has focused on training as a means to address child labour and developed a number of policies and institutions to support this effort, including the Zanzibar Vocational Education and Training Policy, which provides government and private job training and preparation to youth.

The Ministry of Education and Vocational Training planned an alternative education programme, which assists adults and children who have dropped out of school. The Complimentary Basic Education and Training (COBET) programme, which provides skills and entrepreneurship training to rural populations and incorporates child labour targets.

The Secondary Education Development Programme (SEDP) and the Primary Education Development Programme also contributed to increased school enrolment.

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