South Africa: Renowned Wines, Dangerous Working Conditions

08/24/2011 11:01 am ET | Updated Oct 24, 2011

The fruits and wine that come from the Western Cape are enjoyed by consumers around the world and generate billions of rand for South Africa's economy, yet the farmworkers who help produce these goods are denied basic human rights.

Human Rights Watch found that workers often live in substandard homes. One farmworker explained that he and his family had lived in a former pig stall for more than 10 years with no electricity, water or adequate protection from the rain.

Farmworkers fear being evicted from their homes on farms when they become too old or sick to work, with nowhere to go after decades of labor. It is estimated that nearly a million workers and other farm dwellers were evicted from farms in South Africa between 1994 and 2004, and evictions continue today.

Human Rights Watch documented workers who were exposed to pesticides without proper safety equipment, denied access to toilets or drinking water while working in the fields, and punished for joining trade unions. Foreign workers are particularly vulnerable to abuse. Farmworkers are paid among the lowest wages in South Africa.