Punish Sugar Companies for Child Labour -CSOs

The report indicate that sugar companies claim to have laws and policies in place to deal with child labour practices but they remain on papers as children are seen on the sugar plantations without intervention of the companies .

Civil Society Organizations want government to amend the sugar Act 2020 to boldly highlight the penalties against child labour perpetrators in the sugar industry which they say is a problem among the sugar growing communities.

The plea follows a study on child labour in agri –business carried out in a selected out grower communities and companies in Uganda’s sugar industry that included Mukono, Buikwe and Jinja districts.

According to the Uganda Bureau Of Statistics 2018 report, the sugar industry has the higher percentage of child labour cases at 95% when compared to the other agri-business fields.

The World Bank-supported report indicates that agri-business contributes 25.8% to the national GDP with the sugar industry being the largest contributor however, when it comes to human rights abuse especially for child labour that involves children between five to 14 years age, the sector still carries the day.

The International Labour Organisation define child labour as the  work that mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful  to children while the 2006  national labour policy describes it as work whose nature is likely to harm the health, ,safety or morals of children.

The study that intended to understand the rate of child labour, enhance the role and capacity of the state in holding sugar business accountable for their contribution to the violation of children rights and then what can be done when children are involved in child labour activities discovered that.

Child labour in the sugar industry is mostly prevalence on the out growers' plantations where children are found supporting their parents on sugar plantations in possession of hazardous machines like panga’s without parents recognizing that its child labour.

The study that was done in 2019 also discovered that parents deprive their of education by making them concentrate on plantations even during school time.

The same report indicate that sugar companies claim to have laws and policies in place that are intended to deal with child labour practices but they end up on papers as children are seen on the sugar plantations without intervention of the companies.

In this report it is acknowledged that it is only the sugar company policies that contribute to the child labour but other factors like high levels of  poverty, high school dropouts rates.

Meanwhile the report recommend that government in particular amends the sugar Act 2020 to include clear safeguards for children against child labour and here they cite revoking licenses of industries where supply chains are supported by child labour.

The current state of the Sugar Act 2020 that was signed by the President in April, after four years of push and pull between the executive and the legislature, seeking to provide for the development, regulation and promotion of the sugar industry, also established a sugar board as a corporate body with a mandate to regulate the sugar industry.

Joel Lutimba Lumala, a researcher with the Public Interest Law Clinic and a member of the Uganda Consortium on Corporate Accountability (UCCA) says that they want the sugar industry to know that child labour is prohibited.

‘’Since they created a sugar board to regulate the sector, they should go ahead and specifically inform the players in the sector be it the companies or outgrowers that child labour is prohibited,” Lumala adds.