“I don’t want to go back to the farm”: a case study of working for water beneficiaries’ fears of returning to farm work
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In addition to clearing invasive alien plants, the Working for Water (WfW) Programme, as a South African government public works programme, provides short-term employment and training to empower the poor in finding alternative employment within the labour market. Several studies indicate that its beneficiaries become financially dependent on WfW projects and tend to be reluctant to leave the programme. The sociological reasons for this reluctance, however, remain largely unstudied. We therefore address this gap by reporting on a case study of four WfW projects in the Western Cape Province. Face-to-face interviews with beneficiaries suggest that a number of push and pull factors contribute to their dependency on WfW. Chief among these factors is a fear among previous farmworkers of returning to farm work. It was found that the latter can be linked to a historical power-relations legacy between landowners and farmworkers, mainly created by institutional racism still prevailing on many Western Cape farms. These findings bear important implications for the implementation of a new draft WfW policy aimed at encouraging private landowners to employ WfW beneficiaries on their land as clearers of invasive alien plants.