Cooperating out of child labour in Malawi

In Malawi child labour is a persistent challenge. The recent estimates show that more than 2.1 million children, or about 38 per cent of Malawian children, continue to be involved in child labour. Most of these children are employed in the agricultural sector, and many are in hazardous forms of child labour. As part of a wider approach, the ILO is looking into the ways in which cooperatives and producer organizations can tackle the issue of child labour in agriculture.

News | 30 November 2017
Participants developing an action plan for their organization based on the training.
A Training of Trainers (ToT) event on using agricultural cooperatives for the elimination of hazardous child labour was convened in a lodge in the Machinga District, in the South of Malawi from 14-17 November 2017. A group of 20 participants from the Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development; Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism (responsible for cooperatives); Ministry of Agriculture; Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR); Tobacco Association of Malawi (TAMA) and the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM) participated in the training that provided a comprehensive view on a challenging topic.

The ToT was organised within the framework of a project aiming to reduce hazardous child labour in tobacco growing through social dialogue. It used components from existing ILO tools such as My.Coop, Think.Coop and the Training Resource Pack for Agricultural Cooperatives in Child Labour Elimination.

Cooperatives and other membership-based organizations can be useful tools in supporting the efforts to eliminate child labour and support families and communities to break out of the child labour practices. As highlighted by a recent ILO brief on the topic, there are four key action areas through which cooperatives can play this role: Improving the livelihoods of their members and people in the communities they serve; Actively engaging their members not to use child labour; Supporting the communities to eliminate worst forms of child labour through educating children; and Becoming involved in activities toward eliminating the worst forms of child labour in the global supply chains where they operate.

The purpose of the training was to provide the participants with technical knowledge and a variety of participatory methods to enable them to train community members across the country on child labour elimination through cooperatives. In addition, the ILO staff used this opportunity to do a full review of the training materials that exist on the topic. Based on the learning from this training, a complete training package is under consideration for development for use in other countries. The objective of this effort is to have a training tool that provides hands-on advice to co-operators and their supporters in what is it that cooperatives can do to respond to child labour, and how this would be best achieved.

In the ILO there is a strong shared view that cooperatives can be useful tools in addressing child labour particularly in rural areas, also demonstrated through having cooperatives being discussed at a workshop for rural workers’ unions and small producers’ organizations to discuss ways in which child labour can be sustainably eradicated in agriculture and rural economy at large, held in Accra and Torkor, Ghana, earlier this year.

Overall the training was a success, largely due to high quality of participants who were keen to take up on this issue in their activities in the rural areas of Malawi.
Participants group photo