Pi Foundation - Child Labour Free Cotton Seed Project
Your support has enabled TRAID to donate £87,014 to the Pi Foundation to release children from bonded labour working long hours in hazardous conditions in the hybrid cotton seed sector in South East India. This project will last for three years and begins in 2010.
In the Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh region of India, the problem of bonded child labour in the hybrid cotton seed sector is rife. Children are bonded by loans given to families who are typically the landless poor.
Approximately 200,000 children between the ages of 5 - 14 are used in the delicate and labour intensive process of cross pollinating hybrid cotton plants by hand. Girls account for 95% of the existing labour force typically working for up to 13 hours per day for around 24p.
In this kind of agricultural work, girls are preferred for the dexterity of their fingers and patience, alongside a deeply ingrained belief that virgin girls will make the seed more fertile.
Private seed companies outsource the cultivation of seeds to small scale farmers using 'seed organisers' as intermediaries. This means that seed companies have no direct contact with farmers growing its seed and can deny responsibility for the use of child labour.
The production of hybrid cotton seeds is very labour intensive making costs high and the use of cheap child labour (around 55% cheaper than adult wages) attractive to seed farmers. Farmers also contend with low procurement prices, long delays in payment and the need to buy seeds annually as hybrid seeds are sterile. An essential aim of the project will be to prove to farmers that seeds can be farmed without the use of child labour, and still be profitable.
To do this, the Pi Foundation and local partners will work with small farmers and the seed company Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd - the biggest private seed company in the region - to develop and pilot a model that proves child labour free hybrid seeds can be produced at a competitive market rate.
The pilot will identify and work with farmers to cultivate 34 acres of land producing seed with a certification that it is child labour free The model will pay fair wages to adult workers and sell to farmers at affordable prices. Each acre converted to produce child labour free seed directly correlates to children being released from bonded labour. Formerly bonded children will be able to take part in accelerated learning courses so they can catch up on lost schooling enabling them to join mainstream schools.
Key objectives include:
- raising awareness and attitude change towards the rights of children
- providing an appealing alternative through strengthening quality and access to education
- establishing sustainable pricing practices within the seed industry and cotton trade
- creating demand for Child Labour free cotton seeds
Please check back regularly for project updates and the Pi Foundation's website which will be live soon.