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Unreported World; Ashes to Ashes

2ee0834824Last updated: May 15, 2010

Source: The Guardian

Jenny Kleeman’s investigation of child labour in the tobacco fields of Malawi is pretty bloody shocking

Jenny Kleeman is in Malawi for Unreported World (Channel 4), investigating child labour in the tobacco-growing industry. In terms of the numbers involved, it’s pretty bloody shocking. Thirty-five children from one primary-school class are absent, off working in the fields or sorting the tobacco leaves (you’d think that would be pretty much the whole class, but there are still around 70 in the room). Children as young as three work up to 12 hours a day, with just one break. One woman working full-time takes home just £18 a year for her family – the cost of three packs of cigs in Britain.

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It’s not nice work, either. They cough from inhaling the dust, and get poisoned by nicotine. Thousands of ordinary Malawians are trapped by the country’s reliance on tobacco.

Thank heaven, then, for Kleeman, ferreting about the place, being a proper journalist, exposing the bad guys. There’s not an enormous amount of light ahead. The tobacco companies keep the prices down, meaning less money for the farmers, and even less for the labourers. The politicians aren’t helping much, either. One was caught employing child labour on his own tobacco farm. The penalty is five years in jail or a £100 fine (that’s not a hard choice, is it?), but this guy got off with a warning. Maybe our lot, with their moats and duck islands, aren’t so bad after all.

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