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Safeguarding the well-being of SA’s agricultural workers

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Bizcommunity Agriculture, 17 Feb 2021, photo credit: UNH Cooperative Extension

Agriculture played a major role in softening the economic blow of the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa, but the businesses throughout the entire agricultural value chain will have to take care of workers proactively to ensure that the industry takes it rightful place as an indispensable partner in the rebuilding of the country.

“It has been proven that the sector is essential to post-Covid-19 economic recovery, but the health of workers will need to be safeguarded, as their contribution will be key to the role the sector has to play,” says Dr Kobus Laubscher, agricultural economist and independent consultant to Agility Agri.

“Proper communication about the virus, health and wellbeing is necessary. No farm is an island; suppliers, co-operatives, distribution and agri-processing businesses are all deeply reliant on one another, and to protect the industry employers in agriculture must become more assertive and should require testing as soon as a worker shows visible signs of possible infection,” says Laubscher.

“Farmworkers may choose not to communicate signs of possible Covid-19 because they may be afraid of losing their jobs. Hence farmers must take the lead in ensuring the health status of the farm stays intact. Prevention will always be better than cure.

“The pandemic exposed decades of insufficient investment, mounting workforce limitations and inadequate capacity. If we fail to close the healthcare gaps between the haves and have-nots in the country, we will further risk humanitarian and economic damage,” Laubscher says.
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