Labour on commercial farms in Zambia : A case study of the Southern Province, 1945-1980
Mtamira, Peter Bornwell
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This dissertation examines the process of labour stabilization on the commercial farms in the Southern Province of Zambia between 1945 and 1980. It does this by attempting to show how post-Second World War technological innovations, rural-to-rural migrations, landlessness and population increase, increased investments and re-investments, the shift in agricultural production, and the participation of private and parastatal companies in agriculture contributed to the process of labour stabilization on the commercial farms.Post-Second World War mechanical and bio-chemical innovations were instrumental in the evolution of a permanent skilled labour force on the commercial farms.Equally instrumental were rural-to-rural migrations,that is, the migration of labour from outer districts and provinces to the commercial farms along the lineof-rail, and the development of the enclosure system and natural population in the native reserves. The colonial state was largely indifferent towards the process of rural labour stabilization as evidenced by its refusal to participate in the production and provision of workers' houses on the commercial farms.However, during the colonial period, a rural proletariat was formed on the farms. This class lacked access to the means of production, particularly land, and was conscious of its class position and capable of taking class action or struggles. Increased investment in farm machinery and farm vehicles and the consolidation of the enclosure system in the villages or customary lands further strengthened the process of labour stabilization in the post-colonial period. More skilled labour was required to operate tractors, trucks, and combine harvesters. At the same time, landlessness in the villages increased the participation of the local plateau Tonga in permanent wage employment on the farms. Like the colonial state, the post-colonial state was more concerned with creating material conditions for production and not with guaranteeing farm labour's improved working and living conditions. This was shown by the post-colonial state's generally anti-labour position particularly in relation to workers' housing and unionization. The diversification of crop production, the return to beef production, and the introduction of irrigation after 1975 broadened and consolidated the process of labour stabilization on the farms. Irrigation led to demand for a relatively large permanent unskilled labour force whilst at the same time increasing the skilled labour component to operate tractors, trucks, and combine harvesters. There was also increased participation of companies in agricultural and pastoral production. Following a recognition agreement between the National Union of Plantation and Agricultural Workers and the Commercial Farmers Bureau in 1974, the former opened several union branches particularly on the company-owned farms. Thus, by 1980, the process of rural proletarianization on the commercial farms in the Southern Province was completed.