Child labour in commercial agriculture :the case of Malawi’s tea industry

Child labour in commercial agriculture :the case of Malawi’s tea industry

Generating and analysing data on child labour in Malawi’s tea industry

This document is a report of a baseline study of child labour in Malawi’s tea industry. It presents the combined findings of a field and desk study on the issues of child labour in the tea-producing districts of Thyolo and Mulanje in southern Malawi, commissioned by the Employers’ Association of Malawi (ECAM).  ECAM is a membership-based association of employers established in 1963 and registered under the Trustees Incorporation Act. Its core functions include:

  • to serve, represent, promote, guide and protect employers’ interests in matters of labour, employment and socio-economic issues
  • to create capacity and provide leadership to employers in dealing with cross-cutting issues such as HIV/AIDS, gender and child labour.
The study was carried out with the aim of generating information that would assist the employers in the tea industry, and other stakeholders, to develop suitable strategies and interventions for dealing with the worst forms of child labour in this industry. A threat by the international community to boycott Malawi’s tea products for reasons of child labour would be devastating for the country’s economy and greatly demotivating to the national poverty eradication initiatives.

It has been observed that the tea industry has a long history of employing children in various capacities. However, perceptions are changing due to the official efforts and work of non-governmental actors on the issues of child rights, human rights, social advocacy, and lobbying. Awareness among employers and other stakeholders is fairly high. From the year 2000/2001, employers began to take active policy intervention in the matters of child labour. As a result, the numbers of children employed in the industry may be reducing. As such, the paper offers the conclusion that the efforts in combating child labour have already begun; they only need to be strengthened.

In recommendation, the author states that the awareness campaign should continue, but should involve more partners. The key to this is partnership building among all the key stakeholders. Given that there is a fair amount of awareness and commitment on the part of the various stakeholders to combat child labour, the approach should be participatory and accommodating, rather than confrontational.
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