When Sikhula Sonke came to one farm, there they produce grapes to one of the big wine cellars in Stellenbosch, the first time the working and living conditions were really poor.
The workers who live on the farm had no bathrooms, no toilets or running water. There was a tank in the yard that all residents took water from, a tank that has never been cleaned and the water was so dirty that it was possible to see the small particles in it. The residents had to boil and strain it before it was possible to drink it. The power wires were hanging open; windows were missing glass and instead covered with plastic. Many of the houses had only one room, where the whole family had to sleep and eat. They cooked over an open fire and only two of the families had a refrigerator. There was a small shop on the farm with fresh goods, but it was very expensive.
It was just the men who got working clothes, a couple of simple work shoes and a work overall. The women were forced to work in their own clothes. When pesticides were used there was no equipment available, which is required by law. Wages were below the legal minimum limit and there were no toilets or drinking water available in the workplace.
The first years Sikhula Sonke organized on the farm they focused on providing information on rights, try to solve internal problems between the workers and make contact and establish a relationship with the farmer. From 2008, the majority of workers are members of the union which requires negotiations with the farmer, whom was previously reluctant to cooperate with Sikhula Sonke.
The negotiations brought results. In 2009 the farmer began to renovate the houses. He hired people to build bathrooms with toilets, bath tubs and hot water. He fixed the electrical cables, painted houses, and built extra rooms. The farm dwellers got clean running water. To fix things outdoors, such as building fences or garages, the farmer pays 50% of the materials and labour.
The security in the working place has also improved. Both women and men receiving proper working clothes and working shoes. The farmer fixed insurance for illness and death, and because this required a health tests, were all tested for HIV. The farm dwellers are now getting transportation to the doctor and the farmer has created a pension fund so that workers can get a more decent pension on the date they become too old to work. Wages have increased from R250 to R320 weekly for the general workers.
Today, the farmer also provides transportation to children to school if it rains.