Western Cape farm communities experience more unemployment, GBV than usual due to Covid-19 pandemic

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  • The Western Cape farming community is facing even greater challenges than before, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 
  • The sector highlighted the urgent need to address the social ills plaguing the farming community during a Rural Safety Summit held earlier this week.
  • Gender-based violence cases are on the rise due to more people being at home.

The Western Cape farming community says the Covid-19 pandemic has multiplied their hardships, with unemployment and gender-based violence (GBV) sharply on the rise.

The farming sector fears that the socio-economic problems due to unemployment and poverty - coupled with ongoing social ills such as alcohol and drug abuse - as well as ongoing evictions, will continue to rise as the country stares a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections in the face.

With this in mind, members of the farming community highlighted the need to address these social ills during a Rural Safety Summit held at Goudini in Rawsonville.

Agri Western Cape's Uys van der Westhuizen said agri-crime in South Africa costs approximately R5.7 billion every year.  

He stressed:

This money could have created 136 871 employment opportunities instead. The sector is tasked with ensuring food security. Fulfilling this task is being bedevilled by crime and the high level of unemployment is not helping.

AFASA’s Ismail Motala said they would continue to support any initiatives aimed at reducing rural crime, as it impacted on farming businesses.

Wimpie Paulse, chairperson of the Western Cape Agri-Workers Forum, stressed that crime threatened agriculture workers' ability to care for themselves and their children.

"We will support any project aimed at dealing with crime. However, we must adopt an inclusive approach to dealing with rural safety while at the same time addressing the challenge of unemployment and reducing the social ills in our communities. Perhaps we should not only be problem solvers but rather creators of possibilities for our youth,” Paulse added.

ALSO READ | Ramaphosa calls on men to do more to prevent gender-based violence, following staggering rape stats

Women on Farms' health and empowerment coordinator, Micealah Rose, said since the pandemic hit, their concerns and worries had escalated.

"Unfortunately, GBV cases increased because people were all at home, people were frustrated due to a lack of income. Seasonal work had become more challenging and people weren't able to make ends meet," she said.

Rose added that, with recent minimum wage increases for farmworkers, some workers were receiving fewer hours, which meant they weren’t being paid the full minimum wage.

This, coupled with unfair dismissals, had been weighing heavily on farmworkers, she said.

Rose said that working conditions over the past year had not been pleasant for farmworkers, especially with Covid-19 still firmly on our doorstep.

She said:

Covid protocols weren’t being followed on the farms, workers weren’t given the necessary personal protective equipment to continue working safely.

Western Cape Agriculture MEC Ivan Meyer, who hosted the rural safety summit, said it reflected the provincial government's commitment to building safer rural communities.

The summit aimed to create a platform where information on existing rural safety policies and responses, as well as the latest technology, could be shared and explored.

"Agriculture and agri-processing contributes to 11% of the province’s GDP. Primary agriculture employs 187 951 of the Western Cape’s workers and agri-processing a further 191 751. This represents 14.4% of all jobs in the province and almost 20% of the RSA’s agri workforce," Meyer added.

The department also officially launch its rural safety desk and digital dashboard.

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