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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. The Women@Work Campaign in Zambia will focus on flowers, green beans, sugar snaps, baby corn and chillies.

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. 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.

Some of the farms generate high profits from the horticulture and floriculture industry. Companies have a number of gender inclusive policy instruments in place relating to recruitment and conditions of work, occupational health and safety and HIV/AIDS. In addition, most farms have a gender policy in place, that covers gender based violence and sexual harassment to protect women from being victims of abuse. A lot of progress has been made to improving the working conditions through the efforts of the National Union of Plantation, Agriculture and Allied Workers (NUPAAW) especially in raising awareness of worker rights and of sexual harassment.

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 equity 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 breast feed their babies, and child care facilities.

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 horticulture industry, but the gap is the lack of enforcement.

Zambia has a National Gender Policy and has established a Gender in Development Division (GIDD) and assigned a Gender Focal Point within the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. However, these policies and positions have very little visibility, financing, or training to make any meaningful changes on the ground.

Government ministries to be engaged under the program are the Ministry of agriculture, Ministry of labor, Ministry of commerce, trade and industry, Ministry of gender and Ministry of health. Key private sector stakeholders to be engaged include York farm, Khal Amazi, Enviro flower, Gwaza farm and other.

Other organizations to be engaged which represent employers or employees include: Federation of Free Trade Unions of Zambia (FFTUZ), Workplace Unions, Zambia Congress of Trade Unions, Farmer Support Organizations, International Labor Organization (ILO), Workers Compensation Board, and Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU). Civic and human rights organizations to be engaged include Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), Women for Change, Non-Governmental Coordinating Committee (NGOCC), National Legal Aid Clinic for Women (NLACW), Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA), Human Rights Commission (HRC) and Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR).

Related news and views

  • Women@Work Campaign uplifting farm workers’ conditions


    Over the years, floriculture and horticulture have continued to flourish in the agricultural sector, creating the much needed jobs for Zambians. In fact, more women are said to be employed in these two fields, than the men. According to a scoping study by the Women@Work Campaign under Hivos, it was established that because of the larger number of women hired, compared to men, it was contributing to poverty reduction among many communities.

  • Women@Work Campaign launched in Southern Africa


    Hivos’ Women@Work Campaign has extended its activities to Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe. On 2 March, together with other civil society organizations from both Southern and Eastern Africa, Hivos launched the campaign, which aims to improve the labor rights of women working in horticulture value chains.