Alcohol & Drugs

The legacy of the “dop” system

Although the “dop” system, whereby wine farmers pay their workers with alcohol has largely disappeared, many farms supply wine to workers on credit, contributing to poor health and social conditions. This is according to a recent survey conducted by the Dopstop Association, which found that the health and environmental conditions were significantly poor on several Stellenbosch farms where alcohol was easily available on credit or through sales. ANSO THOM reports.

Although the “dop” system, whereby wine farmers pay their workers with alcohol has largely disappeared, many farms supply wine to workers on credit, contributing to poor health and social conditions.

This is according to a recent survey conducted by the Dopstop Association, which found that the health and environmental conditions were significantly poor on several Stellenbosch farms where alcohol was easily available on credit or through sales.

Of the workers surveyed, 56% of adults were current drinkers – 76% in men and 34% women. The most common drinks were wine and beer, both consumed in large quantities and mainly over weekends.

The average weekend beer consumption per drinker was over three litres and the average wine consumption was about one-and-a-half litres.

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy was reported by almost 42% of mothers and foetal alcohol syndrome prevalence was identified in almost six percent of children aged five to eight years.

Stunting was prevalent in more than 30% of children and almost 15% of the children were underweight for age.

The survey further showed that wages on farms were low and that a significant gender discrepancy existed. The average weekly income was R157,47. The male average was R184,82 and the female average R122,49. Wages did not capture the full remuneration package.

The average age of starting to work on the farm was 17 years.

Of the respondents, 11% said yes to whether any children under 15 years were employed on the farm. This included full time, seasonal, after hour and weekend work.

The survey found a high prevalence of smoking on the farms, especially among women.

“This is likely to have huge implications for future smoking related diseases which typically have long latent periods, as well as for secondary effects on children from indoor tobacco smoke,” according to the researchers.

* Dopstop is a non-profit organisation dedicated to address the legacy of the dop system and alcohol abuse on farms around Stellenbosch. It has embarked on a number of multi-disciplinary health promotive activities on farms in selected areas of Stellenbosch, concentrating on youth, alcohol abuse and support groups for mothers with children who have foetal alcohol syndrome.

About the author

Anso Thom