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Zimbabwe: HRW report claims child labour & rights abuses rife in tobacco farms

Human Rights Watch recently released a report titled A Bitter Harvest: Child Labour and Human Rights Abuses on Tobacco Farms in Zimbabwe, documenting how children work in hazardous conditions, performing tasks that threaten their health and safety or interfere with their education. Human Rights Watch said cases of child labour, worker exploitation and low pay are rife in Zimbabwe's tobacco farms. Human Rights Watch wrote to 31 tobacco companies, including the eight companies that accounted for 86 percent of the tobacco purchase market share in Zimbabwe in 2016.

Reports HRW, "We also wrote to several companies with whom we had previously corresponded regarding child labor on tobacco farms in other countries. The companies included 12 multinational tobacco companies: Altria Group, Alliance One International (AOI), British American Tobacco (BAT), China National Tobacco Corporation, Intercontinental Leaf Tobacco (ILT), Contraf Nicotex Tobacco GmbH (CNT), Imperial Tobacco (Imperial), Japan Tobacco International (JTI), Rift Valley Corporation/Northern Tobacco (NT), Premium Tobacco Group (Premium)/Premium Tobacco Zimbabwe (PTZ), Philip Morris International (PMI) and Universal Corporation (Universal); and three Zimbabwean tobacco leaf merchant companies: Boostafrica Traders (Boostafrica), Chidziva Tobacco Processors (Chidziva), and Curverid Tobacco Limited (Curverid). We did not contact other Zimbabwean companies with smaller market shares. Altria Group and Philip Morris International stated that they do not purchase tobacco in Zimbabwe. Intercontinental Leaf Tobacco, and China National Tobacco Company, which operates in Zimbabwe through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Tian Ze, did not respond to Human Rights Watch. Boostafrica responded to Human Rights Watch but requested that the response be kept confidential. Most tobacco companies purchasing tobacco in Zimbabwe that responded to Human Rights Watch stated they have detailed child labor and labor policies in place, including a prohibition on children performing most tasks involving contact with green tobacco, which they implement in their direct contracting.

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Report
9 April 2018

Full Report: "A Bitter Harvest: Child Labor and Human Rights Abuses on Tobacco Farms in Zimbabwe"

Author: Human Rights Watch (USA)

Human Rights Watch research in 2016 and 2017 into conditions on tobacco farms in Zimbabwe revealed an industry tainted by child labor and confronted by other serious human rights problems as well. Zimbabwean authorities and tobacco companies should take urgent steps to address child labor and other human rights abuses that may be undermining the sector’s contributions to economic growth and improved livelihoods. This report—based on extensive field research and interviews with 64 small-scale tobacco farmers...as well as 61 hired workers on tobacco farms in the largest tobacco-growing provinces in Zimbabwe—found several serious human rights problems in the tobacco sector. Many children under 18 work in hazardous conditions on tobacco farms in Zimbabwe, often performing tasks that threaten their health and safety or interfere with their education. Adults involved in tobacco production—both small-scale farmers and hired workers—face serious health and safety risks, but the government and tobacco companies are failing to ensure that workers have sufficient information, training, and equipment to protect themselves. Hired workers on some large-scale tobacco farms said they were pushed to work excessive hours without overtime compensation, denied their wages, and forced to go weeks or months without pay...Tobacco companies also have an important role in respecting human rights in Zimbabwe’s tobacco sector. Many major global tobacco product manufacturers, such as British American Tobacco, and leaf merchant companies like Alliance One International and Universal Leaf Tobacco who supply to other major manufacturers, purchase tobacco in Zimbabwe. Human Rights Watch contacted these companies and 28 others regarding human rights concerns in tobacco farming in Zimbabwe and requested information about the policies and systems companies have in place to identify, prevent, and address human rights abuses in their supply chains...

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Item
9 April 2018

HRW Statement: "Zimbabwe: Tobacco Work Harming Children: Government, Companies Failing to Protect Workers, Small-Scale Farmers"

Author: Human Rights Watch (USA)

"Zimbabwe: Tobacco Work Harming Children: Government, Companies Failing to Protect Workers, Small-Scale Farmers", 5 April 2018

(Harare) – Children and adults who work on Zimbabwe’s tobacco farms are facing serious risks to their health as well as labor abuses, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Child labor and other human rights abuses on tobacco farms in Zimbabwe tarnish the tobacco industry’s contributions to the country’s economic growth and improved livelihoods. The 105-page report, “A Bitter Harvest: Child Labor and Human Rights Abuses on Tobacco Farms in Zimbabwe,” documents how children work in hazardous conditions, performing tasks that threaten their health and safety or interfere with their education. Child workers are exposed to nicotine and toxic pesticides, and many suffer symptoms consistent with nicotine poisoning from handling tobacco leaves. Adults working on tobacco farms in Zimbabwe also face serious health risks and labor abuses...

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Article
9 April 2018

Human Rights Watch says child labour and rights abuses rife in Zimbabwe tobacco farms

Author: Enock Muchinjo, Al Jazeera News (Zimbabwe)

"Zimbabwe tobacco farms: Child labour, abuse rife, HRW says", 8 April 2018

In a report launched in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, on Thursday, Human Rights Watch said cases of child labour, worker exploitation and low pay are rife on the farms around the Southern African country. Farm workers, the report noted, face serious health risk, particularly the younger labourers.The report, titled A Bitter Harvest: Child Labour and Human Rights Abuses on Tobacco Farms in Zimbabwe, documents how children work in hazardous conditions, performing tasks that threaten their health and safety or interfere with their education. "Zimbabwe's government needs to take urgent steps to protect tobacco workers," Margaret Wurth, children's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report, said. "Companies sourcing tobacco from Zimbabwe should ensure that they are not buying a crop produced by child workers sacrificing their health and education."...At one of the biggest auction floors on the outskirts of Harare, Al Jazeera witnessed how teenage boys and girls were accompanying their parents, having to sleep at the floor premises after travelling overnight to sell their tobacco. Because they cannot afford to outsource labour, many rural families depend on the produce of tobacco, including underage children, who are forced to miss school or drop out altogether.

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