A2 fast-track Lowveld sugar cane farms: lives of farmers and farm labourers

Kudakwashe Rejoice Chingono


For many years, the sugar cane industry has been a lucrative business with a substantial international market as integrated into the sugar global value chain (Higgins et al. 2007). In Zimbabwe, the sugar cane industry is no exception, and it is regarded as one of the most important in the region and even in the world (DAFF 2014). The sugar cane farms (or plantations) and mills in Zimbabwe are located in Triangle and Chiredzi, in the south-eastern part (Lowveld) of the country and, historically, they have been owned in the main by Tongaat Hulett. Under the Fast-Track Land Reform Programme from the year 2000, A2 farms (possessed by black commercial farmers) were established at Hippo Valley Estate in Chiredzi, as out-growers for Tongaat Hulett.

The aim of this chapter is to examine the lives and livelihoods of A2 sugar cane farmers and their sugar cane workers, in the context of the farmers’ contractual arrangements with Tongaat Hulett. This is pursued through a case study of six A2 farms, with a focus on the productivity challenges of A2 farmers and their relationship with workers, as well as the living and working conditions of the farms’ permanent and casual labour force.


The Zimbabwean sugar industry in the Lowveld, by world standards, is marked by low-cost and high-output production. The large estates of Tongaat Hulett account for about 80 per cent of Zimbabwe’s sugar cane production (Sikuka 2017), with private farmers (including A2 farmers) producing most of the balance. Tongaat Hulett, as a South African company, owns 100 per cent of the Triangle Estate and just over 50 per cent of the Hippo Valley Estate. Triangle Limited started growing sugar in 1934 (with a mill established in the late 1950s) and was formerly owned by Anglo American, but it is now fully owned by Tongaat Hulett Sugar Limited (Gukurume and Mushuku 2012). The lowveld is subject to periodic drought, and thus sugarcane is grown under Hood irrigation or by way of centre pivot irrigation. The main export destinations for Zimbabwe sugar arc the United States, European Union and Southern Africa (mainly Botswana). Tongaat Hulett, in its core estates, has about 18,000 permanent workers, plus several thousand casual workers, including those working at their two mills.

Before independence of Zimbabwe in 1980, and for many years thereafter, the Hippo Valley sugar cane farms were privately owned by white farmers (Rutherford 2001). From 2000, because of fast-track land reform, white-owned land was subdivided and approximately 870 A2 farms were established ranging from 10 to 100 hectares in size (Sachikonye 2002; Sachikonye 2003). The Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement issued offer letters to A2 farmers based on the successful applications they had initially submitted to the Ministry (Moyo and Ycros 2007a; Moyo and Ycros 2007b). These A2 farms were to be operated as commercial ventures and the A2 farmers were expected to have, already, the prerequisite knowledge, skills and resources (Moyo 2011). In fact, over half of these A2 farmers have Master Farming Certificates (Scoones et al. 2017). Many were also politically connected and had other non-agricultural businesses already in place.

The A2 farmers were also to enter into contractual arrangements with Ton-gaat Hulett as out-growers. They pay Tongaat Hulett for chemicals and fertilisers (amongst other charges) as well as sell their sugar cane crop to the company’s mill at Hippo Valley at a specified rate. They arc expected to pay the local municipality for irrigation water as well as transport operators for moving their sugar cane to the sugar mill. Overall, the A2 farmers sometimes complain that the prices pegged by Tongaat Hulett do not allow for a significant profit margin (Scoones et al. 2017).

At the same time, Tongaat Hulett was sceptical that the new A2 farmers would be able to supply sugar cane in sufficient quantity and at the minimum quality required. At first, the A2 farmers did struggle, but reduced yields were common in the 2000s because of the contraction of the national and agricultural economy. With economic conditions improving from about the year 2009, Scoones et al. (2017) argue that some A2 sugar cane farmers have thrived while others have failed, with many others somewhere in between. Together, the 870 A2 farmers employ about 7,000 workers.

A range of specialist skills, involving the employment of many permanent labourers but others seasonally required and usually differentiated by gender, is required on sugar cane farms (Scoones et al. 2017). The temporary labour is in demand for many tasks, such as weeding, fertilising and cutting the sugar cane (Chidoko and Chimwai 2011). Many of the permanent and casual workers were “inherited” by the white farmers. The wage rates are comparable to other agricultural employment in Zimbabwe. In 2013, the average wage for permanent workers was USS 116 per month and for casual workers it was US$7 for men and US$4.40 for women a day (Scoones et al. 2017:578). Casual workers are clearly disadvantaged. The research done by Gukurumc and Mushuku (2012) shows that, for instance, sugar cane cutters pursued their work as a survivalist strategy in the context of livelihood vulnerability. Furthermore, the seasonal character of the sugar cane crop creates significant uncertainties around job security for causal workers from year to year. Some of these causal workers, when they arc not working on

A2 fast-track Lowveld sugar cane farms 65 the farms, pursue informal economy activities including selling fruit and vegetables at the closest market.

Research methods

The fieldwork for this study required significant engagement with farmers and farmworkers on the A2 sugar cane farms to understand their everyday practices, experiences and perspectives. In this regard, a qualitative research methodology framed the study, leading in the main to the use of semi-structured in-depth interviews. Besides interviews, documents available from the Zimbabwean sugar industry, including from Tongaat Hulett, were examined.

The fieldwork took place in October 2018, with the six A2 sugar cane farms selected through purposive and convenience sampling in terms of access to available sugar cane farms. Because the sample was purposive, as there is no attempt to generalise the research findings to a broader universe of A2 sugar cane farms in Chiredzi. However, it is likely that the findings do resonate with the situation of farmers and workers on other Chiredzi A2 sugar cane farms. Overall, 22 individuals were interviewed. These included: six A2 sugar cane farmers, comprising three men and three women; three farm supervisors employed by the A2 farmers; and six permanent workers and seven temporary or casual workers (including cane cutters). The interviews were conducted mostly in Shona and a few were conducted in English.

A2 farmers

Four of the A2 farmers lived on the farm, while the other two were what has become known as cell-phone farmers, as they reside off the farm and have employment elsewhere. The latter farmers occasionally visit their farms and arc not hands-on when it comes to farming operations. More so than the other four A2 farmers, they are heavily reliant on their supervisors for directing and monitoring the sugar cane production. If the supervisor calls saying he needs money for a particular operational expense, the farmer has to take the supervisor’s word for it because the farmer cannot be there to confirm or deny the request. For the other farmers who have made farming their major source of livelihood, they arc in direct control of expenditures and have close daily contact with farm labourers. As an A2 farmer put it: “Since I stay on the farm, I assist any of the workers that need my assistance even if they arc not from my farm. They can come and knock on my door at any time. I also know there is a water problem in the compounds where the workers live so I have put a well for them”.

Though A2 farmers arc often considered to be exclusively from the elite group in Zimbabwean society, one of the six A2 farmers was from a communal area. He came to his farm in 2006 with his family, with only an old bicycle and no significant moveable assets. This farmer, at least at the start, would use his bicycle as transport when purchasing inputs for his farm and every other errand he needed to run. However, the other five farmers (often from urban areas) alreadyhad high paying (nonagricultural) formal employment along with significant levels of moveable and immoveable assets.

Initial challenges

An important aspect to consider when looking at these sugar cane farm owners, who have been integrated into the global economy through global value chains, is to see whether their productivity and livelihoods have improved, given the profitability, historically, of sugar cane farming in the Lowveld.

An initial challenge faced by the some of the A2 farmers in the early 2000s was the outright refusal on the part of many of the white farmers to exit the farms to be occupied by the A2 farmers, even once gazetted as state property and the land application process had been finalised. A farmer explained, “I got this sugar cane farm in 2001 and this is when I started farming. Initially when I started farming, it was very challenging because the previous white farmers sometimes disrupted operations on our farms”. Some of these white farmers took the black farmers to court as they still claimed to be the rightful owners. In certain cases, some A2 farmers were issued with court interdicts, being accused of stealing the whiter farmer’s land. A2 farmers were prohibited from using their farms until the government intervened and guaranteed their occupation of the fast-track farms. Further, claims were made by A2 farmers that, before they eventually left, these white farmers had allowed the farm infrastructure to deteriorate or removed critical agricultural equipment such as irrigation pumps.

In addition, all of the farm owners said that the 2000s were a difficult time for them as they had just started farming on a contract basis, and with only minimal to no experience of farming sugar cane, and without adequate support from the Zimbabwean government or Tongaat Hulett itself. This was even the case with the (previously) communal farmer, who had grown mainly food crops before becoming an A2 farmer. He reflected on this in the following way: “I started being a sugar cane farmer in 2006 and before that I was a peasant farmer in the rural areas. Being a sugar cane farmer back then was new to me, and we did not get adequate support from the government like the support that white farmers got from the government”. In a similar vein, another said that “I became a sugar cane farmer in 2003. When we started, we did not get enough support from the government, and we had to buy inputs on our own and these were very expensive”. All of the A2 farmers were venturing into unfamiliar agricultural terrain, and they all expected crucial support systems (such as financial support) to be in place immediately, including from government given that the land was acquired through the state’s land redistribution process. Government failure to provide support was seen as inhibiting their capacity to be productive sugar cane farmers.

In this context, farmers took loans from banks (such as CBZ Holdings) as startup capital, and they struggled to pay back the loans because of low yields in the initial years. Some of these loans had accumulated interest that was more than double the loan, resulting from the hypcrinllationary environment in Zimbabwe. One farmer had borrowed 11 million Zimbabwe dollars and had to pay back

33 million dollars. There were reports that some A2 farmers in the area took CBZ to court because of the excessive interest incurred. Massive interest charges were a broader issue at the time, and the Zimbabwean government stepped in eventually by declaring that the interest accrued could not be more than the borrowed capital. Because of this, interest on some of the A2 farmers’ accounts were cleared.

Latter challenges

Beyond these initial challenges, and once the A2 farmers were able to establish an agricultural routine, other (operational) challenges emerged in relation to the actual growing, cropping and selling of sugar cane. The sugar cane cropping cycle is over 12 months, but the harvesting period is considerably shorter, with cash inflows into the farm depending entirely on proceeds from sugar cane harvesting (as no other crops arc grown).

As part of the contractual arrangement with Tongaat Hulett, the A2 farmers send their harvested sugar cane to the company’s nearby mill for processing. There is a charge for milling which the farmers need to pay Tongaat Hulett. When the farmers receive their payment for the sugar cane, the milling fee along with the costs of all inputs (plus interest) provided to the farmers is deducted. The farmers argue that the amount paid is unfair as Tongaat Hulett is not paying them for the by-products from the sugar cane. Apart from producing brown sugar, the mill also produces white sugar, molasses, fibre used for generating electricity and cattle feed. However, the farmers arc only paid for the molasses. They have been contesting this for a number of years, but the situation has not changed. Further, the farmers complained that Tongaat Hulett prioritises its own harvested sugar cane (grown on the core estate) when it comes to milling, with one farmer indicating that “three to live days can pass, and our tractors arc still waiting in line with our sugar cane. The problem with sugar cane staying out for too long after being harvested is that it starts fermenting and turns into alcohol”.

With regard to the milling fee itself, it used to be calculated on the basis of 26.5 per cent of the value of what the farmers produced, and then the farmers complained that it was excessive. The local Sugar Association took this up with the government in 2014 and the Minister gave the farmers an interim relief. The milling charge was reduced to 17.35 per cent and this was supposed to last for three months, and during that time a certain consultancy company was to come and undertake research on the most appropriate milling charge.

After this research, based on the calculated milling charge, whoever (cither A2 farmer or mill) had been paid more than they should was to pay back the other party. However, it took the consultancy company three years to do the research. During those three years (from 2014 to 2017), the farmers were still using the interim charge of 17.35 per cent. The consultancy company then indicated that the milling fee should be set at 23.77 per cent, which meant that the farmers had been overpaid by about 6 per cent. The mill then started deducting the money the farmers had been overpaid over those three years, which meant that the farmers were now in heavy debt in relation to milling charges. Every time the farmers harvest, they arc paying back the milling charge, causing intense anguish amongst them. As one farmer exclaimed:

We were doing well as farmers and then all of a sudden Hippo [V]allcy mill started saying they overpaid us, and they were going to start taking back their money. We were told that we owe them US$21,000 which they have been deducting from us little by little each month. So, we have been overpaid since 2014, and we have been going to court to argue against this, but nothing has been done.

Generally, it seems that most of the challenges that the farmers arc presently facing come from their working relationship with Tongaat Hulett. As part of the contractual arrangement, besides sending their harvested crop to the mill, A2 farmers are supplied with inputs, such as seed cane, fertilisers and chemicals, which they consider as excessive in cost. When ploughing (using rented-out tractors), they have to pay as well for reaping, disking and ridging including the diesel consumed. On top of this, they have to pay the Zimbabwe National Water Authority for what they label as exorbitant charges for the water that is used for irrigation. Overall, then, at least according to the farmers, they arc subject to immense financial pressure on both the input and output sides of the agricultural process. It may be that they relieve part of this pressure by minimising labour costs.

Nevertheless, from about the year 2010, they started witnessing huge improvements and gains from sugar cane farming. They had gained significant sugar cane farming experience and, as well, Tongaat Hulett was supplying proper and timely inputs, despite farmers’ claims about the high input costs. The farmers also expressed concern that, in staggering their planting of sugar cane over a six-month period, they do not harvest any crops in six months each year. This is particularly problematic for the full-time farmers. However, one farmer emphasised:

Sugar cane is a lucrative business. You cannot go wrong. Before I started farming, I used to run a beauty business and I left all that to come do sugar cane farming and that’s the best decision I ever made. Income doesn’t come all year round but when it docs come it is worth it. The 6 months you harvest and get money compensate the 6 months you won’t be harvesting. I am getting more money than I did when I owned a business that gave me money every single month.

Farm supervisors

Farm supervisors form part of the permanent workers on each A2 farm. At the same time, they act as the manager of the farm and oversee the day-to-day running of that farm. As such, they receive wages exceeding other permanent workers. The supervisors enrol in courses on sugar cane farming and managerial responsibilities offered by Tongaat Hulett, including being able to teach workers about best practices on sugar cane farms. The supervisors mediate the relationship between the farmer and workers, especially if the farmer is a cell-phone farmer. If the workers have any grievances, they take it up with the supervisor who then passes on the message to the farmer, and the process is vice versa.

Of the three supervisors interviewed, two of them had worked on the farms before the fast-track programme began, but not as supervisors. Nevertheless, they were able to share insights about white-owned sugar cane farms prior to fast track. Both before and after fast track, black supervisors existed on the farms. The two supervisors expressed the view that, in terms of labour relations, the A2 farms were more dignified than on the white-owned farms. This is because they have been able to establish a strong relationship with the black farmers compared to their previous relationship with white farmers. Though no doubt their views about the A2 farm were in part coloured by the fact that they arc now supervisors, they did insist that communication with the black farmers is more open and flexible, even for the main workforce. The workers could actually go and speak to the A2 farmer when a need arose. This is what one supervisor said about his work experience prc-2000:

I started working on these sugar cane farms in 1980 when there were still white farm owners. When we worked for the white people there was a language barrier because they spoke in English and we [farm workers] were not that fluent in English. However, the white farmers liked speaking directly to the supervisor, then the supervisor would relay the message. Sometimes we would just wake up and changes have already been made regardless of whether they had a negative or positive impact on us. Furthermore, when we worked for the white farmers, they did not allow us to have any other projects outside of working on their farms. That meant we weren’t allowed to start our own gardens which would give us more income. This is because they had shops and butcheries and they wanted us to buy meat and food from them. Even if you did not have money, they would allow you to get the meat on credit and then at the end of the month they took their money from your salary. And boy, did they make sure that they took every cent you owed them to the last penny!

This unilateral command-style, from the perspectives of both supervisors, did not exist on A2 farms, such that the black farmers were more approachable, for both supervisors and the labour force. As a result, they felt a sense of belonging to their respective farms. Another supervisor indicated: “We arc working together as black people now, so we arc more open to talk about things and issues concerning the farm”. This included, at least on some A2 farms, the opportunity for workers to grow their own crops on small plots.

Farm labourers

The farmworkers are usually from Chiredzi and the neighbouring rural areas in the Lowveld. Some of them have been on the farms for many years, even before fast track. Depending on the size of the farm, there may be between six and ten permanent workers, with numerous causal workers. Labourers on the A2 farms are expected to start work at six o’clock in the morning until midday or three o’clock in the afternoon depending on the farm. Women arc normally the ones weeding and clearing the fields and usually by 12 o’clock midday they arc done. Men arc responsible for applying fertilisers and chemicals and for also irrigating the fields, and they usually finish at three o’clock in the afternoon.

Permanent workers

Permanent workers, both male and female, were ensured a steady wage and they obtained more benefits than the temporary or casual workers. They arc given houses by the farmer in the farm compounds, and they can stay in this house as long as they arc still working on the farms.

The permanent workers had different views on the experiences of working on the sugar cane farms in the prc-2000 period. Some of the workers preferred to work for the white farmer, while others did not. The first grouping claims that white farmers treated the workers well and made sure they had all their basic needs met, including ensuring their houses remained in decent condition. When A2 farmers took over the farm, they did not maintain, let alone enhance, the infrastructure which the white farmers had constructed. This is what one permanent farm worker said:

It was better when we worked for the white farmers because they bought us equipment to use on the farm, such as gumboots and protective clothing. The white farmer made us work very hard, but he used to pay us on time and this is unlike the black farmers who usually do not pay us on time. White farmers also used to give us leave days more often than we get now. Black farmers will make you work and work and when you ask for leave it is not easy to get it. White farmers could give us bonuses when we worked hard and reached our target, but black farmers do not do that.

However, other farmworkers said that it was difficult to work for the white farmers because they were always on the farm, and hence there was constant surveillance. Unlike many of the A2 farmers, this was the white farmers’ full-time job, so they would be monitoring everything that the workers were doing. The supervisor’s task was just to survey the farm and communicate with the farmer and workers, but there was always the constant presence of the farmer. The permanent labourers would work until the farmer would come and say it is time to stop, and then they would be free to go home (in the farm compound); in this way, daily working hours varied considerably and without warning. Nevertheless, in general, the permanent workers tended to be quite disparaging of the A2 sugar cane farmers, at least comparatively speaking.

The significance of the social reproduction of permanent farmworkers came out forcefully in the interviews. This issue is also central to debates in the scholarly

A2 fast-track Lowveld sugar cane farms 71 literature about whether integration into global value chains (including the sugar value chain) leads to the social upgrading or downgrading of farm labourers (Rossi 2013; Barrientos et al. 2011). In this regard, the establishment of A2 farms in the sugar cane industry in Zimbabwe has had uneven effects.

The permanent workers are provided with houses in the farm compound called the komhoni in Shona. These compounds existed during the time of the white sugar cane farmers. About three to five A2 farms share one compound and it is the duty and responsibility of the farmers to maintain these compounds. However, from the interviews with the workers, these compounds have not been well maintained since the white farmers left. Currently, the houses in the komhoni lack basic amenities, as most of them do not have electricity, clean water and inside toilets to use. The workers typically have to obtain water from the well located at the house of one of the farmers, as well as from the dam and irrigation canals. For toilets, the workers and their families usually use the sugar cane fields or somewhere in the bush. There is no proper sanitation for these workers. As one of the female permanent workers declared:

Our living conditions arc not good at all; we have no access to water at the compounds where we stay. The war veterans [the A2 farmers] should join together and ensure the upkeep of these compounds but they are not doing that.... If you want to bath you have to go to the dam and bath there. We get water to wash dishes and do laundry from the dam as well. When the white farmers were here, we used to have electricity, clean water to drink and wash, and we also had bathrooms in the compound.

The sanitation issue faced by the workers on the sugar cane farms is one of their most significant grievances. However, despite this and other problems, these workers need their farm jobs so that they arc able to look after their families. Some of the workers have families in the communal areas that rely on them to send money and groceries at the end of the month, so they just continue working. From the perspective of farm labourers, they arc simply being valued by the A2 farmers for the labour (i.e. labour units) that they provide without, it seems, any significant regard for their social reproduction.

At the same time, the permanent workers have advantages, such as (some degree of) financial and job security as well as medical cover. A permanent worker, for instance, has access to the Hippo Valley clinic for free. The worker simply needs to provide evidence to the clinic that he or she is permanently employed and to provide details about the farm and farmer at which the employment contract exists. This saves significant money for the workers because even their families receive medical cover, though this depends on the specific agreement between the A2 farmer and the permanent workers.

Another advantage of being a permanent worker is a guaranteed salary at the end of the month. On most of the farms, at the time of the interviews, permanent workers were receiving between US$80 and US$100 per month when it is cutting or harvesting season. When it is off season, they still get paid, but only between

US$50 and US$70 per month; but again, this depends on the farmer. They receive lower wages during the off season because the farmer will not be generating any income from the farm, so hc/shc cannot pay their full salaries. However, the permanent workers argue that this lower, off season wage rate significantly disadvantaged them, as their household costs were subject to inflationary pressures throughout the year and they, therefore, struggled during the off season to meet their basic needs.

Also, whereas many of the workers said that their farmers paid them on time every single month, other workers arc not being paid in this way. One of the permanent workers expressed discontent because the farmer not only was paying them late, but also actually owed them two months’ salary. This is what she had to say:

We have not been paid consistently, so we have been striking because we have not been paid for two months. The worst part is that the farmer claims not to know that he owes us money and he doesn’t want to pay us for those two months. We even went as far as going to the bank to get statements showing the two months that the farmer had not paid us, but he is still denying he owes us money. We still haven’t gotten our money back, so we end up just working even though we arc supposed to be striking. This is because the farm owner asked everyone to go back to work saying he had heard our query, but he has done nothing about it.

Temporary or casual workers

Casual workers work seasonally on the A2 farms. It is not unusual for commercial farmers to employ a significant number of casual workers because of the ebbs and flows of a typical agricultural season. During key times of the agricultural season, casual workers arc employed, and, during down times, they can be let go -hence not needing to pay these workers at all at such times. On the A2 farms, there arc two groupings of casual workers: the contractual workers that come and do the same tasks as the permanent workers when the need arises, and the cane cutters who arc hired when it is harvesting season. In general, causal workers arc disadvantaged compared to permanent workers but the differences arc not as significant as expected.

Casual workers unlike permanent workers do not have job security. They are only assured a job when there arc extra hands needed on the farm or when it is harvesting season and they arc needed to cut the cane. Therefore, some of the casual workers would prefer to become permanent workers so that they get the perks that permanent workers are afforded (perks such as access to medical care from Hippo Valley clinic). Given that permanent workers tend to remain employed on the sugar cane farms for extended periods, it is not easy getting a permanent job on the farms. However, there are some casual workers who - willingly and by choice -have been casual workers even before fast track arose, and they continue to be so. This is because they believe that being a casual worker allows them flexibility in their lives, without necessarily earning less pay than permanent workers. It seems that, in terms of monthly pay, these casual workers earn wages more or less equivalent to permanent workers. Thus, one casual worker noted that, “[i]n as much as we get paid the same as the permanent workers our jobs arc not guaranteed and theirs are”. But, certainly for those causal labourers seeking permanent work, job security is prized.

Cane cutters are crucial to sugar cane farms and tend to be treated more favourably by A2 farmers, compared to other casual workers. This is because they perform the crucial job of ensuring that the sugar cane is harvested on time and, in turn, the harvesting season brings forth a good yield. They arc provided with food during the day so that they have energy to execute their jobs, although most of the cane cutters arc not pleased with the standard of the food. As well, the farmers often fail to provide these workers with adequate and correct protective clothing. At the end of the day, some of the workers have to go into the field with their own clothing and risk being injured.

The cane cutters though can earn as much as between US$150 and US$200 a month depending on how well they work, which is the same earnings as the supervisors. If they work six days a week, they get almost US$150 and if they work the entire week, they can earn USS200. But they do have permanent worker perks, such as access to medical facilities like permanent workers. Thus, in considering the pros and cons of permanent work, cane cutters focus on the advantages of their high wages, given that all workers suffer the same deficits in living in the komboni.

All the casual workers seem to have similar (sub-standard) living conditions. During the time they have to work on the sugar cane farms, causal labourers arc given houses in the komboni together with permanent workers. However, they arc not allowed to have their families on the farm, unlike the permanent workforce. Rather, three to five casual workers will share a house in the compound. When they live on the farm and stay in these compounds, they face the same challenges which the permanent workers face, such as lack of water, electricity and bathrooms.


This chapter has examined A2 fast-track farms in contemporary Zimbabwe with specific reference to the sugar industry. In doing so, it has detailed the lives of A2 farmers and farm labourers (both permanent and casual workers) as well as farm supervisors. Though this chapter has not focused on the sugar global value chain directly, it is clear that this value chain places financial pressures on Tongaat Hulett in terms of its viability, which in turn conditions its relationship with the A2 sugar cane farmers. In particular, it leads to tense and conflictual interactions, as A2 farmers seek to secure and ensure contractual arrangements conducive to their own viability. Over a number of years now, and through a scries of negotiations over various issues, this toing and froing tends to be a key marker of the lives of the A2 sugar cane farmers. Meanwhile, whether on permanent or casual contracts, the farm labourers bear the brunt of this contested relationship as it likewise conditions their daily lives on the farms, both at the site of production (in the fields) and social reproduction (in their homes). There may be different claims by workers about continuities and changes from the pre-fast-track to the fast-track period, but it is clear that A2 sugar cane workers (as in the past) experience their daily lives in a deeply frustrating, precarious and despairing manner, devoid of any hope of a better life cither on or beyond the farm.


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Part II

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