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Climate crisis forces children into dangerous work

By Rachael Adams | 07 Aug 2020

It's been estimated that there are thousands of children working in Burkina Faso’s gold mines. It’s dangerous work – no place for a child. But, because of the climate crisis, families have few other opportunities to earn money to survive.

Farming used to be a key source of income, but the climate crisis has made the weather unpredictable. Generations of farmers have relied on the frequent rains to keep the soil fertile, which led to abundant harvests. Now, droughts and erratic rainfall have damaged the soil and crops keep failing.

In Burkina Faso, 80 per cent of the population is dependent on agriculture to earn an income. When crops fail, families go hungry.

The climate crisis is pushing families deeper into poverty. It’s also forcing them to make hard decisions so they can survive. Like sending their children to work in the gold mines.

Panning for gold
Abdoul* lives in the north of Burkina Faso with his wife and their six children. Like most people in his community, he is a farmer.

‘Life is not easy,’ shares Abdoul. ‘We cannot make ends meet because of bad harvests.’

So that the family doesn’t go hungry, Abdoul’s children work in the mines, panning for gold. They do this instead of going to school.

But panning for gold has a lot of health risks. It’s dangerous work. It also means children miss out on being children – playing with their friends, going to school, learning and dreaming.

A new way
Tearfund’s local partner CREDO is working with farmers in the region to help restore the soil. They are also providing training on new farming techniques and have distributed climate-resistant crops, so that farmers are able to adapt to these harsh conditions.

CREDO has supported 625 poor and vulnerable households in the area. This is all being done alongside their other work in the region, working with pregnant and new mothers to help them overcome malnutrition which is an increasing problem due to the climate crisis.

By helping farmers adapt to the changing climate so that they are able to produce abundant harvests, CREDO is able to tackle the root causes of hunger in the region.

And, if farmers are able to earn an income from their harvests again, they are less likely to send their children to work in the mines.

Together for change
Abdoul is one of the farmers who has taken part in the training. He has found it hugely beneficial to him and his family.

‘I hope… we will be able to apply the knowledge received to have better harvests and to support the family, and the children will no longer go to mining sites where their lives are in danger.’

None of the training by CREDO is done in isolation, meaning that farmers are able to come together and share in their pains – and their joys. No one has to carry the burden of poverty alone anymore. It’s created a deeper sense of community within Abdoul’s village.

‘The fact that CREDO shows us how to organise and work into groups has created a bond of solidarity between us,’ says Abdoul. ‘We have the same concerns; working together in the fields makes us become closer to each other. We are stronger united and in solidarity.

‘May God bless Tearfund and CREDO so that they continue to help vulnerable people.’

PLEASE PRAY

  • Praise God for how this training has turned Abdoul’s life around. Pray a blessing over each of his children’s futures now that they will no longer have to work in the gold mines.
  • As the climate crisis worsens, it is hitting people living in poverty, like Abdoul, the hardest. Lift up the work Tearfund and our partners are doing around the world to respond to this crisis – building communities’ resilience to droughts and floods, and helping them to overcome hunger.
  • There are 152 million children around the world in forced labour. Pray for their protection, and that they will be safely freed from this work. Ask God to heal the traumas they have experienced, and that they will get the opportunity to be children again.

*Name changed to protect identity

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Photo of Rachael Adams

Written by Rachael Adams