Climate Land & Agrofood Systems [CLAS]

Women at the forefront of finding better living and working conditions in rural communities made up most of the participants at the 2024 Tshintsha Amakhaya (TA) National Indaba. These women are active in grassroots civil society organisations (CSOs), community-based organisations, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). At the indaba, after the emerging scholars presented the findings of the 2023 Agrarian Rural Household Economy (ARHE) study, participants initiated frank conversations and reflections on (1) the working conditions of farm workers and (2) the impacts of minimum wage policies introduced after the 2012 strikes.

Indaba participants expressed lively interest in new research findings on the employment conditions of farm workers in the 2023 study of agrarian households that the Climate, Land and Agrofood Systems team presented. How the employment conditions of women changed over the last decade became one of the focal points of indaba deliberations.

Non-permanent employment, the HSRC study highlights, is the norm rather than the exception of farmworker job agreements. Women are the majority of jobseekers subjected to increasingly verbal employment agreements between the farmer and workers hired for seasonal and temporary on-farm work, driving job insecurity and precarious employment. The research findings also show that minimum wage policies hardly improved the working conditions of women farmworkers, which negates the policy’s purpose and initial promise. On average, women also worked longer hours, than their male counterparts. This evidence resonated with the activists at the indaba for whom the enduring violations of farmworker rights remain a serious concern. TA affiliates and their allies in the NGOs and the CSOs spaces welcomed the study findings, and will use them to shape their collective approach towards the improvement of agrarian rural livelihoods.

Please follow the link to find out more about the ARHE project.

While the current study is still underway, you can browse the HSRC’s repository for related outputs.

Two colleagues from the HSRC’s Equitable Education and Economies research division will represent the Climate Land and Agrofood Systems (CLAS) team at the forthcoming Tshintsha Amakhaya (TA) National Indaba. The yearly TA National Indaba will take place between 7 and 9 of May in Gauteng. The CLAS representatives will share and discuss preliminary findings of the 2023 Agrarian Rural Household Economy (ARHE 2023) study with participants at the indaba. A key aspect of the ARHE 2023 study that TA contracted the HSRC to complete investigates changes in the livelihoods of agrarian communities since the 2011/12 report.

A dominant theme which emerged from the study is the deep-seated inequality that persists in agrarian rural households, particularly in terms of gender inequalities. This insight stands out from the preliminary findings of the ARHE 2023 survey and key informant interviews, allowing for a microscopic focus on how and why gender inequality persists.

On average, the total and per person incomes of women farmer households were well below the incomes of male farmer households. This difference was worse in the individual income of the farmers, where male farmers received more than double the income of women farmers. A similar trend was observed in farm workers and farm dwellers where men received more income than women. Key informants interviewed hold different views of gender disparities in the agrarian space. Some believed that males were more dominant while others believed that females were more dominant. However, one thought that resonated across interviewees was that certain roles are longstanding gender-specific traditions and allocated according to accepted social and gender norms. A deeper analysis will need to think beyond sociocultural, customary and subjective perceptions through integrating structural socioeconomic forces that shape agrarian inequalities.

For more information on the study, please see here.

While the current study is still underway, you can browse the HSRC’s repository for related outputs.

HSRC fieldworkers are visiting districts across South Africa to conduct research on how people earn a living through farming, specifically to understand the challenges experienced by marginalised farming communities. The 2023 Agrarian Rural Household Economy study was commissioned by Tshintsha Amakhaya, an activist collective that advocates for people’s rights to land and agrarian livelihoods.

In October and November 2023, the fieldworkers collected data from small farmers, farm workers and other farm dwellers in Bojanala (North West), Amajuba (KwaZulu-Natal), Namakwa (Northern Cape), Ehlanzeni (Mpumalanga), Amathole (Eastern Cape), and the Cape Winelands (Western Cape).

At the outset, the team leading this new survey realised that it is not easy to coordinate data collection in the 12 districts, spread across all provinces. The survey sites are predominantly rural, remote, sparsely populated and with untarred roads. These sites pose tough logistical and linguistic obstacles. Moreover, safety concerns demand extraordinary efforts in negotiating entry into these localities and convincing individuals and communities to partake in the survey.

Emerging scholars in the HSRC’s Equitable Education and Economies (EEE) division have been leading the data collection activities, which started on 23 October. As representatives of the HSRC in the field, they must uphold the ethical standards of social science research during their interviews with study participants. They are also guiding fieldworkers from Tshintsha Amakhaya to help them acquire survey enumerator skills through learning-by-doing.

Teams conducting the survey in the designated districts enjoy the assistance of administrators and a data quality controller. The steady progress and quality of data streaming into the REDCAP online platform show that the brief but intensive training for enumerators is bearing fruit. Parallel to the survey, key informant interviews with state and non-state actors in the land and agrarian sector are beginning to fill knowledge gaps about the broader context, including the effects of Covid-19 and climate change in these settings.

Read more about the training of enumerators here.

For more information about this study, click here.

A research team in the Equitable Education and Economies (EEE) reached a key milestone in the 2023 status report on agrarian livelihoods. To prepare for the collection of survey data from farm workers and small farmers, a lively and intensive week of fieldworker training was held in the Cape Town office of the HSRC. Tshintsha Amakhaya (TA), the project funder and chief beneficiary, requested the EEE-team to also train their own fieldworkers who reside in the 12 districts where the survey will be administered.

Figure 1: Fieldwork training participants and partners, Cape Town HSRC -09 to 13 October 2023

This TA request demanded an adaptation of traditional instruction-based models of capacitating enumerators. Training followed a participatory approach to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the survey instrument by all participants for its accurate administration. Additionally, the training equipped fieldworkers with a deeper understanding of the research process at various stages, emphasizing the critical value of accurate data collection for research. Throughout the training, the EEE-team prioritized skills transfers to participants from remote localities across targeted study districts. The training blended theory and its practical application, which include engaging in roleplay exercises, translating the survey tools (such as enumerator guides and consent forms) from English into the other 10 official languages, and gaining proficiency in data capture techniques using REDCAP, a digital tool for survey data collection.

Tshintsha Amakhaya (TA), an alliance of land and agrarian rights civil society groups, commissioned the EEE team with expertise on climate dynamics, land and agrofood systems research to conduct the 2023 survey. For more information about this study, please visit:

The Climate Land and Agrofood Systems (CLAS) team in EEE has been appointed to conduct the 2023 Agrarian Rural Household Economy (ARHE) study. Tshintsha Amakhaya (TA), an activist collective that advocates for people’s rights to land and agrarian livelihoods, commissioned this study as a follow-up to their 2011 research. The appointment of HSRC to undertake this study flows from our recognised expertise in this field and our ability to carry out large-scale research with pro-poor outcomes.

The main aim of the 2023 study is to document the working and living conditions among small farming households and farmworkers in South Africa. Standout markers of the makeup of these agrarian households will be explored in addition to livelihood catalysts. Women, for example, form a substantial majority of agrarian labour. However, gender equity policies often coexist with deep-rooted barriers that block women’s control over and access to land, agricultural inputs and crop and livestock outputs. Gender inequalities in agrarian activities also show up in climate dynamics and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in these settings.

To inform the activism and advocacy of Tshintsa Amakhaya affiliates, the 2023 study will combine insights from key informant interviews and a survey of agrarian households across 12 districts. Where feasible, the results of the 2023 study will also be compared with the 2011 findings to help map the nature and direction of any changes that may have occurred over slightly more than a decade. How the experiences of agrarian households in South Africa compare with what is happening elsewhere in the global south will be done through a purposeful review of country cases. Tshintsa Amakhaya formed a research reference group to oversee project implementation, offer feedback on substantive resource outputs, facilitate access to research sites and promote the outcomes of this research through their networks.