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Farm Worker Housing

The guide to good housing

As a rule, most farmers are keen to provide adequately for their workers, especially when it comes to housing. Because a happy homer is a hard worker. Yet, to get to the honeypot, it’s best to follow the guidelines. By Gerrit Rautenbach

Like many good stories, this one also starts with a long, long time ago. It begins in the African bush when the badger got its full name. When it became the honey badger, this happened when our badger stumbled across its first-ever beehive and discovered it had a sweet tooth. Oh, that heavenly honey.

So, from then on it was on a quest, searching for more of this bewitching sweet stuff. Alas, it ran around in circles, unfulfilled and craving. Regularly this flitting little bird would hover around the honey badger, confusing it at first, chirping incessantly, bouncing from twig to twig until the penny dropped. The badger started following the bird. Because this bird was not named the honey guide for nothing, and it led the badger to the sweet reward.

The guide to a double reward
Bringing this fable into a real-life farming context, it becomes clear that there is more than one positive outcome here. It relates both to good homes for workers as well as excellent product export opportunities. The one depends on the other.

Because no country will even think of importing produce from SA without first seeing a SIZA social Audit Completion Letter which includes requirements on certain accommodation aspects, you might say this could be the ulterior motive for supplying good housing. SIZA stands for Sustainable Agriculture in South Africa. Yet SIZA is not a watchdog or into policing, as the programme is improvement‐led rather than solely audit‐led and, in the process creates four categories of risk: Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze, where the Platinum category has the most stringent qualifying criteria. It has been created as a motivator, not a disclaimer. It offers a guide to help producers to prosper and reap rewards.

SIZA is the (honey) guide offering the guidelines and a SIZA member will be rated according to the risk categories, based on the number and rating of each finding during each of their audits. Basic yet decent and safe living criteria are set to ensure a working and progressive home life for farm workers. This includes aspects like fire safety, no leaking roofs, effective sewage, and everything else that offers a good space to live in, is structurally safe and hygienic. A good space to recuperate and to be refreshed for tomorrow’s work. And the next day. A happy home is a hard worker. As producers must drive continuous improvement and implement the required practices within their business, they should aim to get fewer findings and a higher rating during their next audit. The higher the rating, the better the business prospects. And respect.

In addition, when harvesting season comes, farmers need many extra seasonal workers. They also need to be accommodated, and that accommodation is not exempted from the SIZA audit requirements if the farmer is a SIZA member. Although there are many options available, from wooden cabins to tents to container homes – all must meet the basic SIZA accommodation requirements before the producer can complete an audit in full and ultimately export. Currently, the South African pome- and stone-fruit industry employs more than 68 000 workers (permanent and seasonal) with over 273 000 dependants.

People looking after people
So can it all be in the name of export? No, that is not the real reason these farmers do it. As stated, (in the name of SIZA), the key is sustainable agriculture. Because when you offer a sustainable future to the people you need to help you to produce, you end up with more content people. And content people work better, assuring a better bottom line, better and bigger exports. This cascades into more available funds to keep on upgrading the living environment. It’s a progressive circle indeed, not a viscous one.

Above all, it’s a humanitarian thing, coming from the heart. You see, the thing is, by law, farmers do not have to supply housing to their workers. But they mostly do, and often they do not even charge rent. It also contributes to better rural safety as well as protection for workers and their families. Decent farm housing is a much better option than life in the townships.

The farmers do it because it’s a universal truth, people like to do good. And SIZA provides a guide offering to take you to the honeypot. And beyond. Be wise, there is ample reward in opting for the guide. Sometimes you need some extra wings.


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