Northern Malawi tobacco growers will this year commit themselves not to exploit tenants, Mzuzu Police Victim Support Unit (VSU) has disclosed.
The group will sign an agreement with police.
Mzuzu Police VSU child protection officer Violet Kabobondo on Tuesday said in the past farmers have been accused of dumping their tenants when crops are ready, leaving them stranded.
She said the agreement would also help reduce child labour as farmers will only be allowed to employ tenants who have no school-going children unless there are schools close to the estates. This follows findings that unavailability of schools drives children of tenants into child labour.
“The most affected areas are Chigwere, Mtwalo, Biya, Bula, Hewe, Mpherembe and Kazuni,” said Kabobondo.
She said the police have also been a victim of farmers practices as tenants and their families go to police for financial help. She said since 2009, police have helped the tenants with K187 000 ($1 119).
“In 2009, we registered 11 cases of children, 14 women and 21 men; we managed to help eight children, nine women and six men with transport. In 2010, we had 17 children, we helped nine, 21 women, we helped 16, and 25 men, we helped four.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“In 2011, we had 23 children, we helped 17, 19 women, we helped 14 and 27 men, we helped 13. Most of these people are from Mulanje, Thyolo, Phalombe, Chiradzulu and Dedza,” said the officer.
Mzuzu-based tobacco farmer Harry Mkandawire said he is aware of the situation, but argued the idea to make tobacco farmers sign the commitment is rushed as there is a TenantÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Bill pending that would cover such issues when passed.