Enriching Rural Communities Through Migration for Sustainable Agriculture
The agriculture sector in South Africa attracts migrant workers from across the region. When their skills are effectively channelled, and their labour rights protected, migrant workers have the potential to help improve agricultural value chains and accelerate sustainable development outcomes for themselves, their families and communities.
“Africa is the youngest continent, full of energy, but at the same time, it is a continent with enormous unemployment… This is why sustainable agriculture and climate smart agriculture play a crucial role.”
Rodrigo De Lapuerta, Director, FAO Liaison Office with the EU and Belgium
Garry is a migrant worker who manages the packinghouse on a farm in South Africa. Working in the agriculture sector interested him because it was an area he was already familiar with. He first started operating a forklift on the farm and was able to take on new tasks as others began to realize his diverse skillset – from welding to mechanics. Building on these experiences, he has taken on a managerial role and is overseeing the work of the tomato and banana packinghouses.
“I had some experience welding and mechanically, just a little bit. They realized as time went on that this guy can easily adapt. Now I am the packinghouse manager.”
Garry, Migrant Worker from Zimbabwe
Demonstrating how rural development interventions can take migration into account to enhance development outcomes, the EU-funded project 'Mainstreaming Migration into International Cooperation and Development' (MMICD) implemented by IOM produced a video to showcase this #MigrationConnection. The video highlights good practices implemented in South Africa, where the government has invested in training on sustainable agricultural techniques.
“We train them to become farmers because we believe that, if we empower them, we will be empowering the nation.”
August Shabangu, Production Manager
Collaboration is also taking place with Universities so that farmers can learn new agricultural techniques and students can receive practical experiences that build on innovative practices at local level. Through this training, participants can increase their knowledge-base and receive mentoring to further their career goals. Simultaneously, these efforts are “empowering the nation” by creating more jobs and supporting wider food systems. This ultimately strengthens the value chains of agriculture, which span from harvesting to the consumer.
As we enter the “Decade of Action to Deliver de Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, it is essential that the contribution of migrant workers to productive and sustainable agriculture is recognized, in order to reach the goals by 2030. Target 2.4 of the SDGs calls on governments and development actors to ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production.