One of our recent stakeholder engagements in our Pathways Project focused on the issue of farm dweller access to services on farms. It has led to a number of follow up initiatives, one of which was interviewing a farmer and farm workers about the provision of land and housing on a farm in Nottingham Road. The Pathways Project is identifying a range of different options for improving farm dweller tenure security and access to services and housing, including farmer led strategies.

A ‘Dialogue on Services,’ held on the 7 December 2017, occurred between a wide range of stakeholders and was led by an independent facilitator. The Dialogue was an open discussion aimed at finding solutions to the issue of basic service delivery on farms.

The context for the Dialogue is that the provision of services on private land remains a contested issue, despite the provisions of the Constitution (See resource document: Improving Farm Dwellers’ Tenure Security and Access to Housing and Services . Local government carries the central mandate for ensuring that people within its area of jurisdiction are provided with basic municipal services, including water, electricity and sanitation. However, in practice most municipalities are not providing farm dwellers and labour tenants with access to water, adequate sanitation and refuse collection. Furthermore, farm dwellers report to AFRA that municipal officials inform them that the problem lies with farm owners who prevent officials from gaining access to their farms, thereby obstructing them from providing basic municipal services to farm dwellers.

We heard a variety of inputs from a diverse range of participants including farm dwellers, farmer associations, the district municipality, the provincial departments of Rural Development and Land Reform and of Agriculture and the Mayor of Mpendle Local Municipality.

The following issues are among the most significant raised by Dialogue participants:

  • Social conflict between farmers and farm dwellers;
  • Limited opportunities for farm dwellers to voice their concerns;
  • The importance of legal awareness but examples of poor services provided by lawyers;
  • Loss of dignity for farmworkers in both their living conditions and the manner in which they are treated on farms;
  • Agricultural dynamics such as drastic changes in the dairy sector.

Perhaps most significantly, all participant agreed on the importance of communicating and collaborating with each other. Farmer representatives showed a willingness to engage on solutions to the questions of services and land rights, highlighting that “good stories” of more progressive land owners exist and that improved relations benefited everybody on farms.

Two of the significant outcomes were that the district IDP Manager, Prince Fakude, undertook to request at the Mayor’s Forum that the district municipality take forward the initiative to engage with stakeholders and that one of the farmers present, John Bates, invited participants to visit his farm to observe first-hand the housing development project on his farm.

We are following up with Mr Fakude about the role that uMgungundlovu District Municipality can play convening a platform for farm dweller, farm owner and municipal engagement and we took up the offer to visit the farm in Nottingham Road in January this year.

AFRA researchers interviewed John Bates at his farm, Fordoun and two farm workers, Gladys and Norah, who live in the housing development project that he presented at the Dialogue. The following photographs provide a visual idea of what we saw. We will continue to research this, and a selection of other, farm owner initiatives by speaking to farm owners and farm dwellers in the next few months.


The farm dweller households at Fordoun have relocated three times on the farm from houses that they had built themselves made from mud, into brick houses that were built by the previous farm owner which had electricity and water and, finally, they moved to the small settlement above which consists of 17 houses on a portion of subdivided land on the edge of the farm adjacent to the road. Farm dweller families identified and agreed to an individual title holder who received ownership of the property. Community members can sell their houses after a 15-year period has elapsed. Before selling, they would have to consult with the other community members, who would have a first right of refusal. They also identified a second family member who would be next in line for succession. property. The project received a government human settlement subsidy. Some of the farm dwellers living here work on the farm while others do not.

There are ancestral graves on the farm which are protected by, for example, the planting of shrubs around the graves. Norah has more than 25 family graves on the farm. Farm dwellers cannot bury their dead on their properties anymore. Some people have built a home for their ancestors on the new properties as the graves are located elsewhere on the farm.

Some people have livestock on the property but their cattle are kept with the land owner’s cattle. They have access to grazing grounds on the farm for their goats. Some people have vegetable gardens on the property.  They have access to metered electricity connections inside their homes and purchase electricity themselves. While they are not currently paying for water, they will do so in a few years’ time. The municipality collects refuse and has promised street lights and a tar road.


The farm dwellers relocated from their old homes to the new development. Their previous places of residence were redeveloped as self-catering accommodation. The photograph below is the previous home of a farm dweller that has not been renovated in the self-catering village.

In the coming months AFRA will explore hosting a follow up Dialogue on Services in the course of 2018. We will also be further developing practical strategies for improving access to services and securing tenure in consultation with farm dwellers in our upcoming learning workshop in April. By then we hope to be able to report on progress regarding inclusion of farm dwellers in municipal IDP planning processes.

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