Livelihoods, Education, Advocacy & Protection to Reduce Child Labor in Sugarcane Areas
Project Duration
September 2011
August 2016
Funding and Year

The ABK3 project raised awareness, strengthened advocacy, and built the capacity of community, government, and sugar industry stakeholders to reduce exploitative child labor in 11 sugarcane producing provinces in the Philippines. The project provided educational support to help children succeed and stay in school, and assisted families in increasing agricultural productivity, finding alternative sources of income, and linking to social protection programs in order to alleviate the root causes of child labor. ABK3 worked closely with the sugarcane industry and Government of the Philippines to integrate child labor prevention into policies, guidelines, and training to ensure that protections for children were addressed at every stage of sugarcane production.

The Problem

Over 1.2 million children are estimated to work in agriculture in the Phil­ippines, a sector recognized as one of the most dangerous for children to work. Many of these children work on sugarcane farms where work includes long hours under the heat of the sun, use of dangerous tools, carrying heavy loads, and putting fertilizer and pesticides on the fields. As a result, children may get injured or sick and many drop out of school. Children often engage in the worst forms of child labor because there is little alternative: they come from families that live in poverty or are from communities with limited access to quality education.

Our Strategy

USDOL has a long history of working with the Philippines to combat child labor, specifically addressing hazardous work in sugarcane since 2001. In response to the Filipino Department of Agriculture’s Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) and industry partners’ desire to more actively tackle the problem, USDOL partnered with the Government of the Philippines to take a more deliberate approach to address children working in sugarcane. The project worked closely with the Filipino government to strength­en its institutional capacity to combat child labor – through improved policies, programs, and service delivery. By raising awareness among Filipino communities on the dangers of child labor and the importance of education, the project sought to spur greater stakeholder involvement and action in addressing this problem.

Through educational assistance, the project provided many children their first chance at a quality education and provided youth with the skills and train­ing they needed to secure decent work. In assisting their families, the project reached beyond the class­room to address root causes, such as low household income, that contribute to child labor. Finally, recognizing that the first step in tackling a problem is to understand it fully, the project provided support for better data collection on child labor in sugarcane so that the Filipino government, civil society and other stakeholders can address gaps in knowl­edge, improve monitoring, and implement more effective interventions.


Through key partnerships, advocacy efforts, and awareness-raising, the project reduced child labor in target communities by 86%, provided opportunities for education to over 54,000 children, provided more than 30,000 households with the necessary resources to keep children out of hazardous work in farms, and assisted 130 villages in incorporating child labor and child rights issues into annual community development plans. It also mobilized the private sector – more than 70 sugar industry institutions and associa­tions – to institute programs to reduce child labor in sugar supply chains.

In local communities, child laborers who were too far behind in school to immediately return to formal schooling attended catch-up programs, taught by trained peers, and found new interest and enthusiasm for education. Families received training and opportunities to increase their income, such as savings groups, which allowed households to become self-sufficient, buy school supplies and cover school fees – reducing the dependency on children to work.

ABK3 LEAP focused on strengthening existing local and national institutions and sugar industry stakeholders on child labor to have a sustainable impact on reducing child labor in sugarcane. Close collaboration and advocacy between World Vision and the sugar industry on the national level led to the Sugar Regulatory Administration guidelines which require that in order to participate in the Government’s Block Farm program and receive government assistance, sugarcane farms must commit to implementing a farming system that is child labor free.

Trainers from the Sugar Regulatory Administration now include child labor awareness and hazardous work for children in sugarcane in their regular trainings in all milling districts – as well as funding for child labor awareness-raising in their annual budget request – further helping to ensure sustainability of child labor reduction efforts beyond the life of the project.

This multi-faceted approach to addressing child labor in the Philippines ensures that efforts to reduce exploitative child labor are sustainable; creating positive, lasting changes. The results are better protections for children from exploitation, increased opportunities for youth and families to contribute to their communi­ties and to global growth, and a more level global playing field for sugar pro­ducers who play by the rules and seek to protect their workers from unfair competition and abuses of human rights.

Learn About Our Success

Glenn educating younger students at risk of engaging in child labor.

As a secondary student, Glenn was trained by the ILAB–funded ABK3–LEAP project in the Philippines as a "little teacher." On weekends, he educated younger children in his community who struggled in reading and math.

World Vision
Implementing Partners:
ChildFund International, Educational Research Development Assistance Group, Community Economic Ventures, Sugar Industry Foundation, University of the Philippines Social Action and Research for Development Foundation
Contact Information:
(202) 693-4843 / Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking (OCFT)
Child Labor
Capacity Building
Direct Action