There are no lasting policy solutions without us, the Farm Workers

Worldwide there are a lot of policy debates about how to fight hunger and poverty, how to make agriculture more sustainable, and how to create a more equitable food system.
Clearly, there will be no sustainable solutions for food and agriculture without our voices and visions.


Our situation

We are kept invisible

Despite producing the food on farms and plantations, we are often food insecure and earn very little. Our labour and efforts as farm workers and the extremely low wages we get are not visible at the food found in supermarket shelves. We are also kept invisible by policy makers. In many countries of the world, the plantation sector is left out of existing minimum wage regulations. Our trade unions are often excluded from policy processes.   

Our exploitation is systemic

Agriculture is labour intensive, and producers are under heavy price pressure. Thus we and our families often live in squalor, without access to affordable food, clean water, electricity or proper sanitation. Furthermore, our labour on farms is characterized by poor occupational health and safety. Form many of us workers, violence and repression in labour relations is a daily reality. In general, widespread use of migrant, seasonal work and labour brocking is a key feature in agriculture. Women are entering the agricultural workforce in increasing numbers and now make up about 40% among us.  

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We fight back

The unionization is important for us to ensure defence against abuse and rights violations. Some of us are punished for joining unions and actively seeking reprieve in cases of human rights violations. In those situations, we organize secretly and struggle for our rights. In our unions we have developed unique forms of organizing and of union culture, as we deal with completely different situations and dynamics as unions in urban sectors. In many cases, our unions have run extremely successful campaigns in mobilizing for higher wages or against dismissal of some of our activists.  

Agricultural Workforce (Farmers & Wage Labourers) as Share of Total Workforce

Global share 2013: 31% (1995: 41%)

Sub-Saharan Africa 63%
North Africa 28%
Middle East 15%
Latin America & Caribbean 16%
South Asia 46%
South-East Asia & Pacific 39%
East Asia 30%
non-EU & CIS 18%
Developed Economies & EU 4%

0         10         20         30         40         50         60         70

Source: ILO 2014


Source: ILO 2017, ILO 2013, ILO 1996, USAID 2015, Elver 2018

Global Engagement

300-500 million people are engaged in agricultural wage work globally

Working For A Better Tomorrow

We as wage workers represent 40 % of the 1.1 billion people working in agriculture worldwide


More than 170.000 of us are killed in workplace accidents every year. 40.000 from pesticides alone

Deliberate Impediments

3-4 million of us are affected by pesticide: poison, cancer, reproductive impairments

Child Labour

71% of all child labour is found in agriculture

Labour Inspection

Only 5 % of us have access to any sort of labour inspection system and nearly 2 million of us are subject to forced labour



The Forum

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    5 – 8 October 2018

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    Magnifica Room
    Protea Hotel Stellenbosch
    Western Cape, South Africa

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    The forum will include four intense days of strategic debate and shall serve as a platform for exchange of experiences: how do we organize in these contexts of discrimination? What strategies work? What needs to be done so that voices and the interests of farm workers can be heard in the public and in political spaces?

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    The forum will include four intense days of strategic debate, exchange of best practices in organizing and direct exchange with farm workers from Western Cape about their struggles.

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    • IUF is an international federation of trade unions representing workers employed in agriculture; the preparation and manufacture of food and beverages; hotels, restaurants and catering services.
    • Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung is a foundation for political education. It is linked but politically independent from the German party DIE LINKE.
    • Around 90 participants from farm worker unions and allies from all over the world will gather.

Get in touch!

Email Svetlana (IUF-UITA-IUL)

Email IUF