Italian region bans farm work during hottest hours after Malian worker dies

By Angela Giuffrida

Authorities in southern Italy have prohibited outdoor farm work during the hottest hours of the day after the death of a Malian farm worker, but a representative of the African community in Puglia says the ban does not go far enough.

Officials in the region have banned farm work between 12.30pm and 4pm during the hottest days after Camara Fantamadi, a 27-year-old man from Mali, died after picking tomatoes under the scorching sun last Thursday.

Fantamadi reportedly felt dizzy after finishing his four-hour shift, which began at midday, at the farm in Tuturano, a hamlet in Brindisi province. He collapsed and died as he cycled home and his body was found by a passing motorist. An investigation into the cause of his death is under way.

Michele Emiliano, the president of Puglia, signed a law on Saturday prohibiting “work in conditions of prolonged exposure to the sun”. The measure will be in place across the region until 31 August. Temperatures in parts of Puglia in recent weeks have reached 40C and the torrid heat is forecast to linger.

Fantamadi had only recently arrived in Puglia, where he was living with his brother. He earned €6 an hour picking tomatoes, according to Drissa Kone, who represents the African community in Brindisi.

“The ban on farm work [during the hottest hours] until 31 August is fine, but it’s not enough,” Kone told the Italian news agency, LaPresse. “The question is: will it be respected? And then: who will control it?”

Kone is raising funds for the repatriation of Fantamadi’s body to Mali.

Two other mayors in Puglia, including Riccardo Rossi, the mayor of Brindisi, adopted a measure forbidding farm work during the hottest hours a few days before it became region-wide.

“Fantamadi’s death has affected our entire community,” Rossi told Rai News. “Many workers have died over the years due to the prohibitive conditions in the countryside during the summer season. This is why I consider it correct to safeguard the health of workers on the hottest days.”

In July 2015, a 49-year-old Italian woman died of a heart attack while working on a vineyard in Puglia.