This article explores living conditions, livelihoods and prospects of farmworkers with regard to
land reform legislation. Research was conducted from 2004 to 2010 on four farms in the North
West Province, interviewing farmworkers and farm owners. Representatives of the agricultural
union Agri North West and land analysts were interviewed to obtain their perspective on farm
labour. Despite protective legislation, farmworkers’ living and working conditions have
deteriorated. Farmworkers further lack alternative livelihood options, perpetuating their
dependency on farm owners, who are the only ones providing services and some social security.
Among the main barriers in the empowerment of farmworkers are limited insights regarding
complex social relationships on farms, the challenge to address the specificity of power
relations, and the marginalised position of farmworkers and their lack of agency in the broader
political system. Both farmworkers and farm owners need support structures and strengthened
institutional capacity to gradually change power dynamics.