Social networks and fluidity of farm worker households in the context of nutrition security : a case study of a South African farm in the North West Province
Matenge, Sarah Tshepho Pona
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Previous research has shown that nutrition insecurity is a problem that farm workers face in the North West Province. This situation is aggravated by their working, health and living conditions, which are poor and below the recommended standards of living. Like other groups, farm workers are affected by HIV/AIDS in a profound way. Furthermore, it was revealed that farm workers have extended households, with other members of the family living elsewhere. In this regard, farm workers are involved in intricate webs of social relationships with their extended households and other people around them. This study was part of a larger research project on linkages between nutrition security, HIV/AIDS and livelihoods. The aim was to explore social networks and fluid households that persist among farm workers in the context of nutrition security. In addition, perceptions with regards to HIV/AIDS were explored as the disease has a negative impact on nutrition security. Following the qualitative research paradigm, structured interviews, one focus group interview, non-participant and participant observations were used. Also a literature review was conducted to build on the existing knowledge. In addition, household food inventories were carried out. The research population consisted of sixteen farm worker households of a commercial farm in the North West Province who participated in a previous study and twelve extended households of farm workers in neighbouring towns. Comparing the structure and composition of farm workers' households in the previous and the current study, findings revealed that changes are related to labour migration, death, loss of job on the farm, other family members joining, placing children with relatives or more children appearing. As a result, fluid residential arrangements were formed. Farm workers have strong support networks with close and extended kin both on the farm and outside the farm. These social support networks serve as a fundamental coping mechanism to mitigate food shortages. Farm households with higher incomes, more support and resource flows and diversified sources of income were found to be more nutrition secure. Dependency on governmental social grants by both farm workers and their extended households was also found. Awareness of HIV/AIDS transmission was reflected in farm workers' knowledge of the disease, however, denialism accentuated the problem of HIV/AIDS. Improving farm workers living and working conditions and increasing their knowledge about HIV/AIDS could improve nutrition security and reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS.