Historically, WFP only operated in the Western Cape, as the province with the highest concentration of farm workers in South Africa. Over the years, and especially since 2006, WFP received repeated requests from farm workers and partner organizations, such as Lawyers for Human Rights, to expand to the Northern Cape. In considering this possibility, we noted the relative structural and cultural similarities between farming in the Western and Northern Cape and how our programme approaches would be easily adaptable to the Northern Cape context. After undertaking a needs assessment, which included engagement with farmwomen and farm worker organisations in the area, WFP took a strategic decision to open a satellite office in Upington where the programme focus would be on farmwomen's rights broadly.
Women farm workers in the Northern Cape face various vulnerabilities in respect of their labour, land, housing, social security, and health rights. With increasingly precarious and insecure seasonal labour, farmwomen's livelihoods are circumscribed by the lack of off-farm employment opportunities. The lack of knowledge of their labour rights and low unionisation rates further exacerbates their vulnerability.
Farmwomen's casual employment also results in high rates of routine hunger being experienced by farm worker households. Household food insecurity generally tends to coincide with the off-season when the majority of women seasonal workers are not employed.
The high incidence of gender-based violence among farm workers in the Northern Cape is closely correlated with the high rates of alcohol and substance dependence. Together with the Western Cape, the Northern Cape continues to have the highest rates of foetal alcohol syndrome disorders (FASD) in the world.
The Programme aims to empower farmwomen with rights, knowledge and confidence to claim and realise their land, housing, health and labour rights, both individually and collectively. The Programme also increases the household food security of women seasonal workers through the promotion of agro-ecological food gardening.
Women's Rights Groups: A group of 5-10 women on a farm forms a Women's Rights Group (or Vroue Regte Groep) who is trained in a broad range of rights, including labour, housing, social security, health, as well as rights around gender-based violence. The group also meets regularly to discuss and share related issues with each other and other women on their farms.