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Postgraduate Diploma: Module content

 Structural Poverty and Marginalised Livelihoods in Southern African Agro-Food Systems

We believe practitioners and researchers active in land and agrarian reform will benefit from a broader understanding of historical and contemporary debates on poverty, the better to appreciate current dilemmas. This module provides students with an appropriate analytical framework, as well as empirical detail, for comparing experiences and perspectives regarding poverty, land inequality and agrarian reform. This will equip them to engage with the extensive literature on these issues and to participate in ongoing debates.

The objectives of the module are:

  • to provide students with an understanding of the most important concepts relating to poverty, vulnerability and food insecurity;
  • to introduce students to the use, value and limitations of qualitative and quantitative indicators;
  • to provide an overview of trends relating to poverty, vulnerability and food insecurity in South and Southern Africa, with particular reference to marginalised, excluded and rural livelihoods;
  • to provide an overview of the causal factors contributing to poverty and marginalised livelihoods in Southern Africa, with an emphasis on the role of de-agrarianisation, land and agro-food restructuring; and
  • to introduce students to the policy frameworks relevant to poverty and marginality, including both social protection and economic growth policies.

(30 credits)

The Political Economy of Land and Agrarian Reform in Southern Africa

This module delivers an understanding of the conditions that give rise to land and agrarian reforms in Southern Africa, the theoretical perspectives that have shaped reform policies and the practical outcomes of such reforms. It analyses land reform policies in South Africa, exploring processes of land redistribution and land restitution, as well as tenure reforms in the communal areas and on commercial farms. It also covers agricultural deregulation and restructuring.

The module takes a regional view, including brief case studies of reform policies in other countries (usually Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe), while noting recent trends towards large-scale land acquisitions (usually of customary or public lands) by investors, a process which appears to be in conflict with securing more broad-based land rights.

By the end of the module, students should have gained a broad understanding of the historical and contemporary debates about the significance of the agrarian question in Southern Africa, together with knowledge of approaches to and outcomes of reform in South Africa and at least one other Southern African country. In relation to concepts and theories, the course focuses on the key concepts of peasant farming, agrarian structure, the class dynamics of agrarian change, agro-food regimes, property rights and economic viability, which often inform policy debates on land and agrarian reform. Readings and discussion will include debates in the international, African and South African contexts.

The objectives of this module are:

  • to introduce students to historical and contemporary debates around land reform and agrarian change in Southern Africa;
  • to enable students to develop a thorough grasp of the links between agricultural development, rural livelihoods and land reform in the Southern African context;
  • to provide students with an understanding of key concepts and debates in relation to notions of agrarian structure and the class dynamics of agrarian change;
  • to assist students to compare and contrast the range of approaches to land reform across several African countries;
  • to assist students to have a thorough grasp of land reform policies in at least two Southern African countries;
  • to assist students to develop an in-depth understanding of land and agrarian reform in South Africa since 1994; and
  • to enable students to participate in debates around the possible future direction of land reform in Southern Africa.

(30 credits)

The Economics of Farming and Food Systems

This module provides students with a holistic understanding of the complex linkages between farming and livelihoods. These linkages are highlighted through a comparison of different agro-food systems, taking into account both the predominant nature of primary agriculture, the structure of the rest of the value chain and the implications for labour markets and multiple-livelihood strategies. In the course of drawing these comparisons, the rationale for agrarian reform is explored, as is the related discourse on ‘re-governing’ value chains.

The module has an economic orientation, but is designed for non-economists. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of different farming and food systems requires a certain amount of understanding of the economic principles that influence how these systems function or malfunction, together with how they tend to evolve over time. These concepts include the productivity of land, labour and invested capital, concentration and centralisation and petty commodity production versus capitalist farming. The fact that systems tend to change over time suggests an historical dimension, through which changes in farming methods are intertwined with concurrent changes in legal regimes, demographic structure and gender roles.

The objectives of this module are:

  • to introduce students to different types of farming and food systems and their economic aspects;
  • to build a basic understanding of key concepts and arguments in relation to the agricultural sector and farming systems;
  • to help students understand how different farming and food systems evolve and the advantages and disadvantages of each; and
  • to introduce students to the economic arguments for and against land and agrarian reform, with a focus on the Southern African context.

(30 credits)

Social and Ecological Dimensions of Ecosystems Management

Natural resources play a key role in the multiple livelihood strategies of rural people in Southern Africa. Sector-specific, science-based, technical and centralised management approaches have not been successful in achieving sustainable and equitable utilisation, resulting in degradation of natural resources in most rural areas, thus jeopardising sustainable rural livelihoods and long-term economic development.

In recent years there has been increased emphasis on holistic and people-centred approaches to the management and governance of natural resources. This is usually referred to as the ‘Ecosystem Approach to Management’. In addition, we cannot ignore the concerns that arise from ‘climate change’, including how communities cope, adapt and mitigate climate change as a crucial factor for communities dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods.

This module provides an introduction to the key concepts, issues and debates regarding resource management. The module emphasises the centrality of people, rural livelihoods and gender in sustainable natural resource management, together with the impacts that climate change could have on these.

The objectives of this module are:

  • to develop a critical understanding of the theory and concepts of common property;
  • to engage and analyse key issues and debates around sustainable utilisation, livelihoods and natural resource management;
  • to understand the complexities and uncertainties of the social aspects of ecosystems management;
  • to understand how natural resource-dependent communities cope with, adapt to and mitigate climate change;
  • to apply the theories, concepts and lessons to development interventions; and
  • to critically analyse and apply the lessons from case studies to reality and their working environments.

(30 credits)