Horticulture industry in Zambia
Zambia’s economic base is dominated by mining and agriculture. The agricultural sector consists of small, medium and large scale farming. The flori- and horticulture sectors contribute to poverty reduction, earning significant foreign exchange and generating employment thereby providing livelihood to many Zambians, especially women. At its peak, the horticulture sector employed over 12,000 people of which more than 50% were women widely engaged during the growing and packing stages of the product chain.
Laws, policies and government
The legal framework in Zambia is stipulated in the Industrial and Labor Relations Act Chapter 269, the Employment Act Chapter 268 and subsidiary legislation especially in relation to minimum wages. Section 5 of the Industrial and Labor relations Act guarantees employees to become members of and take part in the activities of a trade union. The Employment Act has comprehensive maternity provisions. Many farms have labor laws and affirmative action policies guiding the involvement of both men and women working in the horticulture industry, but the gap is the lack of enforcement.
Challenges for workers
Despite women being the majority workforce in the floriculture and horticulture industry, they are predominantly unskilled workers. They are employed in grading, harvesting, batching, propagation, cleaning beds, collecting rubbish, watering, sweeping, and packing of flowers and vegetables. These are classified as women’s roles requiring dexterity and a careful touch. The jobs are generally poorly paid and in most instances temporary in nature. In general, women have less privileges and benefits than their male counterparts who are in key leadership positions on the same farms. The working conditions for women are relatively poor and they are often unable to meet the basic needs of their families.
Low representation of women in key positions of work coupled with informal labor practices e.g. working without contracts and the lack of enforcement of gender equality policies makes women very vulnerable in the workplace. In practice, these women lack access to adequate maternity benefits - lighter work during pregnancy, maternity leave, returning to work after having the baby, breaks to breastfeed their babies, and child care facilities.
We aim to increase the voices, participation and leadership of women workers, including women living with disabilities, for improved service delivery at the farm level and implementation of labor laws and policies. The project engages workers in two horticulture farms in Chongwe district and partners with key stakeholders to strengthen women workers’ life skills. The focus will be to address gender barriers that inhibit women’s participation in leadership. Ultimately, the project aims at promoting decent working conditions in the horticulture sectors and improvement of relations between farm owners, trade unions and the farm workers.
Furthermore, we are enhancing the awareness on the importance of gender equality in the workplace and the dangers of labor rights abuses; promoting women's labor rights through formation of networks that provide moral and psychological support; and advocating for an enabling policy and legal framework and its effective implementation that is protective of women in the horticulture sector. Gender committees also offer safe spaces for women to discuss matters of concern amongst each other.
- We have trained 180 male champions to promote positive masculinity, promote gender equality and prevent gender-based violence at the workplace.
- Through 6 mobile clinics, we have offered health services to almost 2700 workers.
- We have produced 13 radio programs, highlighting the issues relating to labor rights of women working in the horticulture, and featuring various stakeholders including CSOs, government, trade unions and international organizations.
- Two women’s committees have been formed.