Cape Town – According to the NGO Women on Farms Project, much has been said about providing assistance to businesses but little has been mentioned about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on farmworkers and those living on farms.
According to WFP co-director Carmen Louw, no measures had been initiated to mitigate the impact on farm employees who would have to stop working.
“While initiatives aimed at addressing the long-term structural causes of farm women’s vulnerabilities will need to be addressed in the weeks and months ahead, we demand extraordinary interventions for farmworkers, with a financial guarantee from the government for farmers to cover the lost wages of farmworkers who are forced to stop working by farmers as a result of the coronavirus,” she said.
Women living on farms and in rural areas faced a number of difficulties, including water scarcity and inadequate health care staff and resources.
“Mobile clinics must... be equipped for Covid-19 testing for isolated communities of farm dwellers and prepare quarantine sites in each sub-district, using appropriate state-owned buildings,” she said.
The WFP had established a WhatsApp group with key activists from different areas through which to distribute information. “We are also consulting legal bodies to bring urgent court applications to stop evictions during the State of Disaster.”
Executive director of the Rural and Farmworkers Development Organisation, Billy Claasen said the group welcomed the 21-day lockdown but urged the government to prevent agricultural workers from being exploited in this period.
“We need the government to monitor farms during this time to make sure employers adhere to safety precautions.
“Employers also need to be made aware that employees have the right to take leave if they are concerned about their health and that of their families,” he said.