Child Labour: An Obstacle to Early Childhood Development

Children constitute 60% (25.2 million) of Uganda’s 42.9 million population. However, 40% (6.2 million) of these are engaged in child labour.

With vulnerable livelihoods and a high rate of unemployment in Uganda, many people including children rely on agriculture. Children are a source of labour in Agriculture, and for many families and communities, children’s labour takes precedence over investment in their education. The growth of the coffee-growing industry in Uganda has had an impact on children with many children in coffee-growing regions, being withdrawn from schools to work in the coffee value chain.

The AfriChild Centre in partnership with Terre des Hommes (TdH) secured funding from the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS) to conduct a scoping study on Child Labour in the Coffee Industry in Eastern Uganda. The six months project (May - October 2022) sought to scope the prevalence and nature of child labour, analyse Uganda’s coffee production and supply chains, Landscape the policy and regulatory framework for protecting workers, and identify promising prevention, protection, and prosecution activities to reduce child labour. This was conducted in the Districts of Buduuda, Mbale, Sironko, and Kapchorwa.

The unemployment rate in Uganda, currently at 3%, continues to rise. Many people, including children, have turned to agriculture to manage and survive the crisis. While it has helped Uganda post its highest-ever coffee exports in history, increased child labour also went unchecked. Uganda’s Child Labour Policy, 2006, the National Employment Policy, 2011, the Employment Act, 2006, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, 2006 and Employment Regulations, 2011 all have provisions prohibiting child labour. But what’s happening in the country’s coffee industry shows a different story.

Evidence shows that there’s a need for more initiatives to combat this. Child labour is a concern to child protection as most children are engaged in hazardous work. This has a negative effect on their education and general Early Childhood Development (ECD)