Year: 2014
Working paper number: 345
Author: Nattrass, Nicoli
Unit: SSU
This paper discusses a community-led fencing project in the Koup, an arid predominantly sheep farming district in the South African Karoo. It highlights the role of supportive government officials in sourcing funding and the importance of committed individuals in overcoming collective action problems amongst participating farmers. The project had a strong empowerment dimension in that fencing team leaders were drawn from the ranks of unemployed people in Laingsburg town and they were responsible for recruitment into the project and for the day to day management of the work. Comparative analysis of the socio-economic position of the fence workers with data from the 2011 population census of coloured people living in Laingsburg town suggests that the fence workers were relatively poor and that the project was appropriately targeted for a poverty alleviation programme. This was in part because workers were required to camp on farms for two weeks at a time, thereby resulting in the project automatically selecting for those most committed to earning additional income. The study revealed that the fencing workers identified themselves as general agricultural workers but had skills and experience from other sectors including construction and services. Urban-based agricultural workers have lived in Laingsburg for at least three decades i.e. before the shift of workers off farms that took place across South Africa after 1990. The study sheds light on this long-standing, but under-studied dimension of urban poverty and on the diverse strategies (including reliance on government grants) that people use to combat it in the Karoo.
Publication file: WP 345 .pdf