National conference to discuss future of farm workers in South Africa

Published on 14 October 2019

A major conference will bring together farm workers, academics, activists, farmers and government officials to discuss how to tackle the persistent problem of hunger amongst farmworkers in South Africa.  The conference is being hosted by IDS Research Fellow and South Africa-UK Bilateral Research Chair in Social Protection for Food Security, Stephen Devereux, alongside the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security and the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), in association with Women on Farms Project and the Institute for Social Development at the University of the Western Cape.

Farm workers most vulnerable to hunger

In an article published in the Mail and Guardian in the run up to the conference Professor Devereux and his co-authors Professor Ruth Hall (PLAAS) and IDS alum Dr Colette Solomon (Women on Farms Project) highlighted the vulnerability of farm workers to hunger despite their involvement in the production of food.  Casualisation of farm work, and uncertainty around employment duration and levels of pay has exacerbated this vulnerability.

In a recent study by the Institute of Development Studies in the UK and the University of the Western Cape’s Institute for Social Development and the Centre for Excellence in Food Security found that more than 80 per cent of farm workers in the Northern Cape face seasonal hunger during April to August, when there is little or no work and social grants represent the only source of income. Hunger is also a severe problem in January, with Christmas bills and school fees to pay.

The voices of farm workers often go unheard in initiatives such as land reform, the introduction of a national minimum wage and increasing social grants to tackle the problem of hunger.  This conference is seeking to ensure that their views and perspectives are represented.

Building the research partnerships to tackle food insecurity in South Africa

Professor Devereux highlighted the need for high quality social science research generated in partnership to tackle food insecurity in South Africa at a recent event held at the National Research Foundation to profile his and others work as part of the Newton Fund and National Research Foundation (NRF) UK-SA Bilateral Research Chair initiative (SARChi).

Professor Devereux said:

“The social protection for food security research agenda is motivated by the fact that food insecurity in South Africa remains extremely high. Child stunting has not fallen below 25% since the early 1990s.”

SARChi was established in 2016 and the initiative aims to help strengthen research and innovation capacities in South Africa and the UK, promote international exchange and cooperation and tackle challenges such as food insecurity and make progress towards meeting the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.


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