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Agricultural workers are among world’s hungriest: UN expert

UNITED NATIONS, (Xinhua) -- Agricultural workers have the hardest time accessing food for themselves and are often excluded from national labor and social protection frameworks, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food has said.

“Agricultural workers, including women, children and migrants and plantation workers, are increasingly faced with low wages, part-time work, informality, and a lack of social and economic protections,” Hilal Elver said on Tuesday as she presented her annual report to the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee.

Agricultural workers, who make up approximately one third of the world’s workforce—over a billion people—often work without labor and employment protections and under dangerous conditions, she said.

Many of the agricultural workers are employed in industrialized food system which focuses on increasing food production and maximizing profitability at the expense of workers, she explained.

According to the Special Rapporteur, more than 170,000 agricultural workers are killed at work every year, the risk of a fatal accident being twice as high as that in other sectors.

Nairobi Xinhua -- A farmer picks purple tea leaves at a tea garden near Nairobi, capital of Kenya, June 16, 2017. Xinhua Photo -- Li Baishun)

Those working on farms or plantations, face “regular exposure pesticides and to long hours spent in extreme temperatures without adequate access to water,” said Elver, and migrant workers are particularly vulnerable as they face “more severe economic exploitation and social exclusion than other agricultural workers” and “lack the fundamental protections otherwise extended to citizens.”

The human rights expert noted that “employers are more likely to consider migrant workers as a disposable, low-wage workforce, silenced without rights to bargain collectively for improved wages and working conditions.”


Children are also extremely vulnerable: about 108 million of them face the same dangers through agricultural work due to insufficient risk-prevention and lack of control measures. More than two thirds of the child labor workforce employed in the broader agricultural sector, according to UN News.

The human rights expert urged governments to take action “to ensure that the people who produce our food do not go hungry, and that their fundamental rights are fully respected.”

“Labour rights and human rights are interdependent, indivisible, and mutually inclusive,” she said, adding that “the full enjoyment of human rights and labour rights for agricultural workers is a necessary precondition for the realization of the right to food.”

“It is time for states to step up, and take swift and urgent action to hold accountable those who commit human rights violations against agricultural workers and to prevent further violations,” the expert said.



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