Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza says the department is implementing several interventions to ensure that the safety and livelihoods of farm workers are safeguarded.
Didiza said this when Ministers in the Economic Cluster responded to oral questions at the National Council of Provinces on Tuesday.
“In terms of the safety of the farmworkers, we are working with the rural safety forum, led by the Department of Safety and Security.
“We also want to indicate that we use a communications platform with farmworkers to communicate our initiative. We do use izimbizo, meetings and summits to ensure that we are also hearing the difficulties that farmworkers are facing and are able to address those with the landowners, for instance.
“I know this may not be enough, but it is some of the interventions we are engaged on as a department in improving the livelihoods and safety of farmworkers,” she said.
Didiza said the department has been working with the Department of Safety and Security to come up with a rural safety strategy that also includes mediation in order to address the challenges that farmworkers have with the landowners and their employers, particularly where some of these disputes end up with eviction orders and render farmworkers landless.
“And I think this is a matter where we are engaging our farmers as well as landowners so that when we deal with issues of farm workers, we actually are sensitive that this is a cornerstone of development in supporting the growth in the agricultural sector,” she said.
Support for children of farmworkers
Didiza said, meanwhile, that while the department is implementing interventions to address challenges faced by farmworkers through existing legislation, government is also dealing with support to farmworkers by supporting their children.
The department has adopted a total of 14 farm schools that host children of farmworkers in six provinces – the Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Northern Cape.
“Since the inception of the programme, a total of 196 learners benefited from the department’s farm school bursary programme.
“Through this programme, learners are offered a comprehensive high school bursary from grade 10 up until they complete their tertiary education,” she said.
The bursary covers tuition if the learner is registered in a fee-paying school, textbooks and study guides, boarding fees if applicable and uniforms.
Of the 196 learners supported, 86 have actually enrolled for various programmes in agriculture at tertiary level and 36 of them have already completed their undergraduate studies in agriculture.