South Africa's farmworkers are exposed daily to a range of health hazards - from the potentially harmful effects of pesticide residue to the management of high-prevalence diseases such as tuberculosis or HIV/Aids.
Agricultural empowerment company, BONO Holdings is at the forefront of promoting health awareness amongst farmworkers and creating an agricultural environment that's conducive to each farmworker's well-being.
'We're committed to creating a safe, healthy working environment and ensuring that our employees take care of their health,' says Evans Nevondo, MD of BONO Holdings that operates citrus and grape farms in South Africa together with trusts and the farms' beneficiaries. 'We understand the vulnerability of farmworkers, which is why we provide them with basic health benefits and go a step further by also investing in training them as accredited health workers.'
Jodean September from Mont Piquet farm practicing first aid on her 'patient' Melnary Olivier from Rietkloof farm.
The health awareness and training BONO hosts on its farms equips the health workers to promote healthcare on farms, thus benefitting the whole community. It enables them to render services such as handling minor illnesses, recognising abnormalities and preventing diseases, referring workers to health services such as clinics, supporting patients with primary healthcare, home-care, TB directly-observed treatment and assisting chronically ill and handicapped workers.
This training promotes healthcare, child health, good nutrition and occupational safety, raises awareness of sexually transmitted infections in the community and strengthens family ties, thereby building self-esteem and moral values.
'Once trained, they have the ability to ensure health problems receive quicker attention, act as first-aid workers in emergency situations and advise their communities on social issues,' Nevondo shares. 'But most importantly, they help us spread the message of good healthcare amongst our farmworkers.'
The Department of Health's mobile clinics visit some of the BONO farms every month, rendering services such as TB screening, HIV testing, counselling and dispensing of medication for chronically ill workers and children.
In addition, sport and recreational facilities and activities are offered on the farms as they encourage a healthy lifestyle, help to restore self-worth and aid in the workers reaching their full potential. And so do the skills transfer and development programmes - finance, human resources management and safety courses - BONO Holdings offers in partnership with the training provider, Skills for U.
Workers for example learn how to make sound financial decisions in the workplace and in their personal capacity, while the safety training provides managers and workers with skills that improve awareness and could save lives.
'We feel these additional offerings help to build the agricultural sector - something we need much more of in SA to guarantee a sustainable farming future. The health of our farmworkers - the backbone of our agricultural economy - really is a basic human right,' concludes Nevondo. 'We are now calling on the country's agricultural sector and government to help promote health awareness.'