Welcome to PLAAS

PLAAS does research, policy engagement, teaching and training about the dynamics of chronic poverty and structural inequality in Southern Africa, with a particular emphasis on the key role of restructuring and contesting land holding and agro-food systems in the subcontinent and beyond. Our focus is on the analysis of marginalised livelihoods in Southern Africa, especially of subsistence and smallholder farmers and farm workers, of coastal and inland artisanal fisheries and fishing communities; and of informal self employment in rural and urban areas.

Research Areas


Our research covers diverse areas, ranging from land and tenure reform,  land investment and agro-food restructuring, fisheries and ecosystem management, to social protection and informal self employment. In all this work, our key focus is on the causes and dynamics of inequality and structural poverty, on the economic and social agency of poor...

Latest Publication

A History of Smallholders, States and Business

In the global debates on the modes of farming, including irrigated farming, that are viable for the majority of rural people, three models prevail: (i) smallholder family farming; (ii) farming led by agribusiness’ capital, technologies, and forward and backward linkages in an estate mode; and (iii) agribusiness-led farming in an out-grower mode...

Upcoming Events

Smallholder farmer access and participation in water resource management

Presenter: Dr Bongani Ncube Centre for Water and Sanitation Research, CPUT Access to water for agriculture remains a major challenge for smallholder farmers in South Africa despite the enactment of...


State, corporate and chiefly power is being contested from below in South Africa

What is the transformative potential that emerges from these struggles around land?

Just a month ago, Jacob Zuma was president of South Africa. An authoritarian patriarch implicated in large-scale corruption, he had for years effectively rallied political support by invoking populist discourses around land reform and radical economic...