Nothing to lose; no future; no hope; survival of the fittest: Jacob Kambuta lists off the reasons he left Zambia, answered an agency ad in a South African magazine, and travelled to New Zealand on a one-way ticket to begin four years as a full-time migrant dairy farm worker.
Now a University of Otago Master of International Studies (MIntSt) student researching the experiences of migrant dairy farm workers in New Zealand, Jacob looks back on the morning in 2002 when he disembarked at Auckland Airport with $10 in his pocket.
“I arrived at 4am and was driven straight to a farm near Rotorua. I had one month there and then travelled to work in Gore for six months. I spent four years moving around from Ngaruawahia to Palmerston North to Ashburton…
“I was typical of many migrant dairy farm workers who come to New Zealand and don’t know anyone or the system. They usually go straight to the farms, which are often isolated, and they’re vulnerable to abuse. There is a quite a number from all over the world – Pacific Islands, the UK, Philippines, South America, the USA, China, Africa – but there are no current official statistics of how many [are here].”
“For my Masters topic I wanted to find out why there is not much of a voice for migrant dairy farmers – unlike for migrant fruit workers – especially since, with dairy farms escalating from family to commercial concerns, the need for migrant workers is growing.”
Jacob plans to research the experiences of migrant dairy farm workers, government policy, recruiting agencies, the employers’ role and the dairy industry as a whole.
He says coming to New Zealand has given him access to many things he never thought possible, including a University of Otago Coursework Masters Scholarship of $10,000 a year.
“In New Zealand it’s about you – you are the only one who can stop your opportunities – but I never thought I would do a Masters. It’s been quite a journey.”
After years of moving from farm to farm Jacob gained permanent residency in 2005. He applied for and was accepted into the 2006 University of Otago Foundation Studies programme.
Motivated by the desire to help people and change their lives, perhaps even back home in Zambia, Jacob made a foray into Health Sciences before entering into a Bachelor in Social Work and Community Development.
“In our last year we were encouraged to do research. Through that I came to the idea of more studies. I talked to Master of International Studies Director Professor Robert Patman and he encouraged me to apply for a place in the programme.”
“This course gives me the ability to look at the big picture and understand more about the global issues.”
Now married to a New Zealander, Jacob is still financially assisting his family in Zambia. He is also keen to give something back to New Zealand. Jacob has been a Victim Support volunteer for three years and mentors two boys through Presbyterian Support Otago and Otago Youth Wellness.
“In Zambia the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer. We’re seeing it here too.”
Website: Political Studies