Poverty and household food security of black South African farm workers: the legacy of social inequalities

Annamarie Kruger, Stefanie Lemke, Mars Phometsi, Hilda Van't Riet, AE Pienaar, G Kotze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To assess socio-economic indicators, nutritional status and living
conditions of farm workers and their families, with the purpose to develop research
and intervention programmes aimed at enhancing nutritional status and quality of life.
Design and setting: Three farmschools in two districts of the North-West Province and
farming communities were selected. Anthropometrical measurements, structured
face-to-face questionnaires and focus group discussions were carried out in 2002 and
2003 by a multidisciplinary research team.
Results: Access to electricity, water and sanitation, as well as monthly food rations or
subsidies, vary and depend on farm owners. The majority of adults have education
below or up to grade four, farm schools provide only up to grade seven. Distance to
farm schools and intra-household issues hamper children’s attendance and
performance at school. Household food security is compromised due to a lack of
financial resources, infrastructure and also household resource allocation. This
impacts negatively especially on children, with half of them being underweight,
stunted or wasted. Employment is usually linked to men, while most women have
access to casual jobs only. Insecurity of residence and the perceived disempowered
position towards farm owners add to feelings of hopelessness and stress.
Conclusions and recommendations: This study highlights destitute living conditions
of farm worker families. Apart from structural and financial constraints, paternalistic
structures of the past might also hamper development. Based on these findings,
follow-up research projects and in-depth investigations into underlying social issues
with regard to nutrition insecurity and livelihoods of farm workers were initiated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)830-836
Number of pages7
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006


  • Poverty
  • Socio-economic factors
  • Household food security
  • Farm workers
  • FLAGH programme

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