Hundreds of farmworkers turn out for the first Focus on Farmworkers Open Day

Hundreds of farmworkers gathered at the Kleinplasie Living Open-air Museum in Worcester on Saturday 5th June for the Cape Winelands District Municipality Focus on Farmworkers Open Day.

Boyce Williams of Phuhlisani facilitated the proceedings which were formally opened by the Cape Winelands District Municipality Deputy Executive Mayor Alderman Clarence Johnson. 

'Today’s workshop is the climax to the five-month build-up of workshops held in the district. Today we offer farm workers - the backbone of our rural economy - both platform and a voice. Through this interaction we hope to:

  • increase their awareness of the range of programmes and services which are available to them
  • bring workers from different geographic areas together with government, employers and non government service providers
  • create opportunities for development partnerships and a climate of dialogue
  • issue farm workers who attended the training programme with certificates of attendance

The Deputy Mayor also spoke about the need to understand and monitor the changing conditions in the District and their impact on farm workers:

“CWDM has also commissioned research into trends in the district’s agricultural economy to examine how how these impact on employment, changing labour processes and conditions on farms. The research highlights the rapid changes taking place in the agricultural sector and which present complex challenges to all. The research is also linked to the district’s rural development strategy which will be presented at the Rural Development Conference on the 24th June.”

Alderman Johnson highlighted the need for a coalition for local development:

 “CWDM is committed to developing our agricultural sector and to improving the lives of the district’s farm workers. . .but we cannot do this on our own. We need organised agriculture, employers, workers, unions, research institutions and civil society organisations to work in partnership with us.

This open day reflects the potential that exists for establishing such developmental partnerships. Here are representatives from government departments, organised agriculture, unions, NGOs focussed on the farming sector and workers from the entire district. We anticipate that what transpires today will lay the foundation and building blocks of concrete programmes to further improve the lives of farm workers, and that will simultaneously promote better relations in the district’s agricultural sector.”

A wide range of speakers followed including:

  • Neil Hamman from  AgriWesKaap,
  • Josiah Louw from FAWU,
  • Grace Khane from Sikhula Sonke
  • Lionel Beerwinkel from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform,
  • Denile Samuels from the Stellenbosch Legal Aid Clinic,
  • Rodney Dreyer from Mediation and Transformation Practice,
  • Ida Jacobs from Women on Farms,
  • Joy van Biljon from the Koue Bokkeveld Training Centre
  • Elbre Jacobs from Dopstop

These speakers covered a diverse range of topics of relevance to the farm worker community and answered questions from the participants. The Open Day programme spanned labour relations, evictions, safety and security on farms, the sectoral determination, legal aid, mediation and dispute resolution services, housing, women's rights, skills development and substance abuse .

Farm workers and speakers all emphasised the need for improved dialogue and communication between the different stakeholders. The continuing weak and fragmented organisation of farm workers coupled with their isolation were acknowledged as key obstacles which prevented their voice being heard on matters that affect them. The Cape Winelands District was urged to continue its support to farm worker education and to establish local forums between employers, workers and government to keep the lines of communication open.

Claude Schroeder, Executive Director of Department of Rural and Social Development emphasised the need for developmental partnerships to address the many challenges facing people living and working on farms in the year ahead.

The training team were all on hand to assist Councillor Bushwana and the Deputy Executive Mayor present certificates to all the participants before Sarie Johannes - a representative of the farmworkers who had participated in the education programme closed the proceedings by thanking the Cape Winelands District Municipality and encouraging her fellow farm workers to take the knowledge they had gained during the programme and spread it throughout the farming community.

Boyce Williams drives the day
Boyce Williams drives the day
Farm workers awarded certificates
Farm workers awarded certificates
Participants pack the hall at Kleinplasie
Participants pack the hall at Kleinplasie
Claude Schroeder presents way foward
Claude Schroeder presents way foward
Dougie De Bruyn gets football fever
Dougie De Bruyn gets football fever
Posted: 6/2/2010 (1:51:31 PM)

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