Children have been farming US tobacco fields for generations. But a new report from Human Rights Watch says the practice is dangerous and in need of reform.
It may be later than usual because of the harsh winter, but just as they have done for generations, people are planting tobacco across the vast coastal plains of North Carolina.
The crop put this state on the economic map, but methods used to farm tobacco here have now drawn the gaze of an international human rights group.
“Usually we would wake up around four or five in the morning and get to the farm around six,” says Fernando Rodriguez.
“I would spend the whole day going up and down the rows of tobacco, topping the plants, cutting the flowers, collecting the leaf and all.”
Fernando is 13 years old.
Phi Beta Iota: When — not if — marijuana replaces tobacco as the priimary cash crop of the South, this will bode well for children as well as human health.
Video (26min) of tobacco leaf child labor in Malawi – towards the end is mention of fair trade farms working to replace the tobacco crop with tea leaves.