EVENT

CALL FOR PAPERS: The Future of Farm Workers in South Africa – National Conference

Venue: University of the Western Cape

16 - 17 October 2019, University of the Western Cape

 

Farm workers are an integral component of the economy and the food system in South Africa. Yet they are invariably poor, food insecure, marginalised and vulnerable to exploitation. Pro-farm worker legislation since 1994 has provided some protection, but it has also been associated with violations of labour rights and an accelerating pace of evictions and casualisation. Moreover, because agricultural employment is concentrated at specific times of year, seasonal farm workers face an under-reported crisis of underemployment and seasonal hunger.

The future is uncertain, and the issues facing farm workers vary from place to place. Even within South Africa, farm workers in the Cape winelands experience very different challenges to farm workers in Limpopo. But there are also opportunities. The farm workers’ strike of 2012–13 revealed the power of organised protest, while the current discourse around Land Expropriation Without Compensation (LEWC) gives hope that (women) farm workers will finally enjoy access to land and tenure security.

Conference objectives

The conference takes a South Africa-wide perspective, and will highlight the centrality of farm workers in the national economy and food system, at a moment when academic and policy attention is focused on other actors such as farmers (commercialisation of smallholders), markets (‘supermarketisation’ and big food), and consumers (food safety, obesogenic diets).

A second fundamental objective is to deepen the understanding and contribute to policy debates about issues facing farm workers in South Africa, drawing on research and policy analysis but also on the perspectives of farm workers themselves. Ideally, the diversity of experiences across the country will be reflected in contributions by participants from different provinces.

Finally, since this conference is supported by a SARChI in ‘Social Protection for Food Security’ hosted by the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security, a specific objective is to identify innovative social protection ideas to address seasonal hunger among South African farm workers.

Conference participants

People who are likely to contribute to and derive value from this conference include:

  1. Academics who work on rural livelihoods, agrarian change, or food systems in Africa;
  2. Civil society activists who work with or campaign on behalf of farm workers;
  3. Policy-makers in the areas of agriculture, land, labour and social protection;
  4. Farm workers;
  5. Farmers.

Conference themes

Abstracts or ideas for panels can be submitted on any topic relevant to farmworkers in South Africa. Abstracts and panels are particularly welcome on the following themes:

  1. Farm worker rights: Minimum wage policies and labour rights in commercial agriculture.
  2. Farm worker resistance: The aftermath of the 2012/13 farm worker strike in the Western Cape.
  3. Labour force trends: Is farm labour becoming more feminised and mechanised?
    Do young people have/want a future as farm workers in contexts of high youth unemployment?
    What does the trend towards a casualised labour force mean in a neoliberal economy?
  4. Migration: Implications for local farm workers of internal and international labour migration.
  5. Food insecurity: Seasonality, malnutrition and hunger among farm workers.
  6. Social protection: What innovations are possible – e.g. seasonal unemployment insurance?

Conference format

In addition to academic presentations, contributions from civil society and activists in the farm worker sector are strongly encouraged. These contributions could take multiple forms, including posters, videos, discussion panels and story-telling by farm workers themselves.

Depending on numbers and composition of participants, the conference will be organised around a series of formal sessions (presentations by researchers with discussants and Q&A), semi-formal panels (with farm workers, activists and policy-makers), and informal events (poster sessions, performances).

This conference will be held during the week of World Food Day 2019, and is hosted by the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security (CoE-FS) to raise awareness of hunger and food insecurity. Visit our website for more information about the conference and food security and nutrition research in South Africa: http://www.foodsecurity.ac.za/.

Conference funding

No registration fees are applicable. This conference is supported by the National Research Foundation of South Africa (Grant Number: 98411), and the Newton Fund, administered by the British Council.

Where and when

Where:   University of the Western Cape, Cape Town

When:    Wednesday 16th and Thursday 17th October 2019

Abstract submission

To submit an abstract, or a proposal for a session, panel or activity at the conference, forward your submission to: foodsecurity@uwc.ac.za with the subject line ‘Abstract submission: Farmworkers conference 2019’. Deadline for submissions is 14 June 2019.

Upcoming Events

CALL FOR PAPERS: The Future of Farm Workers in South Africa –...
Date: October 16, 2019
Venue: University of the Western Cape

Farm workers are an integral component of the economy and the food system in South Africa. Yet they are invariably poor, food insecure, marginalised and vulnerable to exploitation. Pro-farm worker legislation since 1994 has provided some protection, but it has also been associated with violations of labour rights and an accelerating pace of evictions and casualisation. Moreover, because agricultural employment is concentrated at specific times of year, seasonal farm workers face an under-reported crisis of underemployment and seasonal hunger.

Our GOALS

We recognise that producers, processors, distributors and consumers are incorporated into the food system under varying terms and returns. We also recognise the economic, social, human and environmental health impacts associated with food security. Therefore our goal is to conduct research, build capacity and disseminate findings that will promote a sustainable food system in South Africa.

Our MISSION

Our research is concerned with the scale, nature, causes and consequences of food insecurity in South Africa and elsewhere on the African continent. Thus our mission is to investigate products, technologies, processes and policies that can reduce food insecurity and mitigate its negative outcomes. We seek to make a difference to food security by linking innovative science with critical enquiry.