South African farmers are old hands at adapting to uncertain and daunting circumstances, and our local agricultural industry has proved to be most enterprising in acclimatising to challenges as they arise. The COVID-19 outbreak should be regarded as an urgent call for employers to take proactive care of agricultural workers, who are integral to our nation’s food production.

“In this country we are most fortunate to have such resourceful and hardy individuals, farming communities and companies working to ensure the security of South Africa’s food supply during the current national disaster. Providing your essential services during the COVID-19 lockdown is a great service to our country,” says agricultural economist Dr Kobus Laubscher, an independent agricultural consultant to Agility Agriculture.

Agility Agriculture provides a fully integrated human capital risk management and employee benefit solution tailored to the specific requirements of South African agriculture, which is especially relevant in light of the COVID-19 outbreak and its potential impact on the industry.

Part of the Agility Agriculture solution is their HEALTH SQUARED Medical Scheme that provides ten benefit-rich, affordable healthcare options custom-designed to suit the unique requirements of the agricultural sector and their employees. As members of the HEALTH SQUARED Medical Scheme, employers and staff are also able to take advantage of their innovative Employee Wellness programme that provides a myriad of benefits that include legal, financial and health advice together with psycho-social support to ensure both the physical and mental well-being of employers and their staff during these most uncertain of times

Our farms, as microcosms of society, will be stirred by the winds of change brought about by COVID-19 and it is very likely that it will leave an indelible mark on the way we see and do things going forward. The industry’s history is littered with disasters and ‘almost disasters’ that we have had to adapt to and that have now become part of our daily lives.

Rising to the challenge presented to agriculture in these uncertain times will require courage and agility. In tough times, often social cohesion can be borne out of a strong sense of shared common purpose. Times like these, either bind teams and organisations closer together—or things irreparably fall apart.

At this time, farmers have a duty to work together to continue to feed the nation, come what may. Inevitably challenges will arise, however these need to be embraced and viewed as opportunities to not only test resilience, but also to make processes, systems, policies and people stronger and better equipped for the future.

At farm level, we should be asking ourselves, what more can be done to not only make the world more liveable in the present situation, but also to safeguard the people we rely on from various risks, which are by no means restricted to COVID-19.

COVID-19 is highlighting the importance of the employer being aware of the wellbeing of everyone involved in their operations, and making provision to ensure their wellness, as this is essential for the team’s collective ongoing productivity.

For too long, responsibility for healthcare has been conveniently relegated to the state and if there was no achievement, it was easy to point fingers. It’s time for farmers or agricultural business owners to reflect on how they contribute to the health status of the people who work for them.

If it takes a crisis like the Coronavirus to serve as a reminder of the inherent value of the agricultural workforce, this important lesson should not be missed. n

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