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The essential role of farm workers in the farming business

The essential role of farm workers in the farming business

By Hanks Saisai.
Agribank Technical Advisor: Crops & Poultry.

Farming businesses generate income for their owners and ensure that local employment opportunities are created for the unskilled and semi-skilled segments of the population.  A key aspect to the success of any farming business that is frequently overlooked is the production input of labour.

In essence, the farmworker is key to the success of the different farming enterprises and farmer categories such as communal, resettlement, affirmative action, and commercial farmer.

A farmworker is generally a person employed by a farmer to help with the day-to-day operations of the farm such as the fencing of land, cultivating, herding and all other labour-intensive operations that must be done on the farm.

When one intends to improve or set up a flourishing agribusiness enterprise, it is of importance to understand the key role of a farmworker in the business. A farmworker is usually associated with undesirable work on the farm and is quite often overlooked and underappreciated. However, in order to maximize your production as an agribusiness owner, you need to know that your production input of labour must be well nurtured.

In a livestock farming enterprise, the farmworker has a vital role to play. For instance, in communal setups, the farmworker is responsible for the herding of livestock (cattle, sheep & goats) on a daily basis. The farmworker follows the livestock while grazing to ensure that they are not attacked by predators or stolen by strangers.

Furthermore, the worker makes sure that the owner’s livestock has access to water daily and ensures that all livestock are accounted for. In commercial set-ups (resettlement, Affirmative Action farmers and commercial farmers), the farmworkers have roles such as herding, feeding of livestock, maintenance of farm fences and repair of infrastructures. All these activities ensure that the farming enterprise can produce a product that can be marketed.

Similarly, in a crop farming enterprise, the farmworker is essential as he does most of the primary activities such as the clearing of land by removing bushes, tilling of the land, the addition of fertilizer, sowing of seeds, irrigating the crops, weeding, harvesting, and finally packaging. All these activities are essential in crop production and in traditional enterprises that are not mechanized, the farmworker does all the labour-intensive activities to ensure that a crop is produced.

To conclude, all agribusiness owners are advised always to ensure that their vital human resource input of farmworkers is treated with respect, dignity and made to be part of the planning phase of the business to ensure that it is productive. Fair wages and incentives are essential to ensure that the workers are content and motivated to perform their duties as per job description.

Finally, farm owners are encouraged to motivate their workers by allowing them to have access to training that enhance their knowledge and skills which in turn may increase the productivity of a farming enterprise.

A job description must be made available to clearly stipulate the tasks that each farmworker has to execute to ensure that the right job is done at the right time. When all is said and done, farmers and farm owners must remember the following phrase: “A happy worker is a productive worker”.


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A Guest Contributor is any of a number of experts who contribute articles and columns under their own respective names. They are regarded as authorities in their disciplines, and their work is usually published with limited editing only. They may also contribute to other publications. - Ed.