Strategies to Support South African Smallholders as a Contribution to Government’s Second Economy Strategy (2 Volumes)

by ALIBER, M, 2008
Research Report. Centre for Poverty Employment and Growth, Human Sciences Research Council

This is Volume 1 of the study ‘Strategies to Support South African Smallholders as a Contribution to Government’s Second Economy Strategy’. In this study, Aliber et al. assess the key elements of an implementable programme to support the smallholder sector in South Africa. The study identifies successful smallholders in different settings, and examines the factors that contribute to their success, whether these are personal, contextual or institutional. Four ways to support the smallholder sector are reviewed: (1) Improving the performance of subsistence-oriented smallholders. (2) Enabling smallholders who are currently subsistence-oriented to benefit from a more commercial orientation. (3) Improving the performance of commercially oriented smallholders. (4) Increasing the participation in smallholder agriculture among those (especially rural dwellers) who do not practice agriculture. The study involved three main research activities: a literature review of international lessons and current practice in South Africa, a scan of 61 smallholder case studies, and 16 in-depth smallholder case studies. (The in-depth case studies are provided in Volume 2.) Some of the key debates addressed in the study were whether to focus on subsistence or commercial agriculture, the relative inefficiency of agricultural projects, and whether the ‘agricultural ladder’ of moving from subsistence to commercial production is feasible. Based on the analysis, four priority interventions for the sector are suggested, taking into consideration the relative capacity of the government and its ability to provide support at scale. These include: Addressing land administration in communal areas; Investing in water availability; Investing in physical and social market infrastructure to support smallholders; Integrating redistributive land reform within a broader agricultural development strategy.