The Rural Foundation, management and change on fruit farms : a case study of selected farms in the Elgin area

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This is an exploratory study which investigates changes introduced by management on farms in Elgin and explores the perceptions of some of those involved in the changes. The initiatives and activities of the Rural Foundation for Community Development (Rural Foundation) and its involvement in these changes forms a crucial part of the exploration. Three questions direct the study. 1. What are the changes that have been introduced? 2. Why were they introduced? 3. What is the social meaning of the changes? The study is based on a case study of four farms. Documentary material was collected from a variety of sources including the Rural Foundation, the South African Government, as well as other agencies operating in the field. Interviews with various actors were conducted, including management and a selection of workers on each of the four farms, Rural Foundation officials as well as other actors connected to the developments on the farms. The study is informed by historical materialist theory and draws from certain labour process theories. Important for the study was the discussion raised in these theories around the effect that workers' motivation has on their productivity. The study is located in the context of the national historical development of capitalist agriculture since the Second World War. More specifically it is situated locally in terms of changes that occurred on Elgin farms more generally prior to the 1980's as well as the present general circumstances in the area. Three fields of change are identified on the four farms: (i) training of workers, (ii) new incentives and pay structures, and (iii) community development. It is asserted that these changes are measures introduced by management in an attempt to, firstly, decrease production costs by employing greater numbers of women and migrant workers and paying them less. Secondly, they are aimed at increasing the productivity of workers through measures designed to improve the 'quality' and stability of workers and to develop a new authority structure on the farms. Four trends are thus identified as occurring on the farms: 1. Increasing use of women and migrant workers. 2. An improvement in workers' living conditions and standards. 3. An increasing emphasis on improving workers' productivity. 4. A shift in the emphasis on control towards developing workers' consent.

Includes bibliography.