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DST/NRF Chair

Phase 1     Phase 2     Outputs     Partnerships

 
Overall objectives

The broad field of study within which the Chair’s research programme is located is the fields of Land and Agrarian Studies, which draws on theories, concepts and analytical frameworks from sociology, politics, history, anthropology, geography, economics and development studies, and is thus multi-disciplinary in nature. The particular theoretical orientation that guides the programme is agrarian political economy (Bernstein 2010).

The overall objectives of this five year research programme are fivefold:

  1. to conduct rigorous field-based research on agrarian change, land reform and poverty reduction that produces theoretically informed and empirically grounded insights into complex and dynamic social realities;
  2. to explore the policy implications of research findings, in order to develop recommendations for policy makers and programme managers from government, civil society and the private sector;
  3. to communicate the programme’s research findings and policy recommendations to relevant decision-makers, within a well-designed process of policy dialogue;
  4. to publish research findings in internationally recognised and peer-reviewed publication formats, primarily academic journals and books; and
  5. to contribute to international scholarship on questions of agrarian change, land reform and poverty reduction.
Research programme in Phase 1 (2010- 2014)

The primary focus of the first phase of the Chair’s research programme, undertaken between 2010 and 2014, was on agrarian change, land reform and poverty reduction. The design of the programme was framed by three over-arching questions:

  1. What processes of socio-economic change are under way in the South African countryside that are likely to influence the outcomes and impacts of land and agrarian reform?
  2. What are the impacts of land and agrarian reform policies and programmes on agricultural productivity, agrarian structure and rural poverty?
  3. What are the policy implications of research findings?

These questions were explored within and across three distinct but inter-related ‘spheres’, or class-differentiated contexts, that constitute key components of South Africa’s agrarian structure:

  • the large scale commercial farming sector that dominates South African agriculture at present;
  • an emerging sphere of successful small- to medium-scale black farmers, located within communal areas, on private land and in land reform projects; and
  • rural households in commercial farming districts and communal areas who are living in chronic poverty.

These questions informed a number of individual research projects undertaken by the Chair and his students, who were all members of a Research Group on Land Reform, Food Systems and Agrarian Change in South Africa. The group included three post-doctoral fellows at different times: Dr. Laura Evans (2011 - 2012), Dr. Stephen Greenberg (2013 - 2014) and Dr. Rosalie Kingwill (2014 - 2015).

Research programme in Phase 2 (2015 – 2019)

The second phase of the Chair’s research programme continues to focus on the underlying dynamics of change within the rural economy of South Africa, including its geographic extension to new locales in Africa and elsewhere, and assess their effects on patterns of production, consumption, employment and income. The programme thus has an explicitly regional character. A key question is the extent to which such dynamics are unique to South Africa, or are expressions of much more general processes within increasingly globalised agro-food systems, with local variations. The impacts of land and agrarian reform policies on these dynamics will also be investigated. Rigorous empirical evidence on trajectories of change in the rural economy and attempts to theorise the causal processes at work are thus key.

Small- to medium-scale black farmers who produce significant quantities of marketed produce are of particular interest. The research programme seeks to understand their prospects within a sector in which state policies to date have not sought to radically reconfigure agrarian structure (e.g. through redistributive land reform) and in practice are generally supportive of the overall character of the current structure and the processes that underpin it. Current policy stances tend to constrain both employment-intensive forms of farming and the prospects for success of black farmers, but this will need to change if the objectives of the NDP are to be achieved.

The programme will comprise a series of individual research projects that seek to contribute in-depth insights on different aspects of agrarian change, and complement each other within a broader framework of shared research questions and approaches. In 2015 five PhD students were recruited. Under the guidance of the Chair they embarked on an intensive reading programme, and will submit detailed research proposals by the end of 2015. The Research Group currently consists of five PhD students (Brittany Bunce, Alex Dubb, Mnqobi Ngubane, David Neves and Tapiwa Chatikobo) and a post-doctoral fellow, Dr Helena Perez Nino, whose doctoral thesis focused on small-scale tobacco growers in Mozambique.
 

Outputs to date

The main outputs of the Chair’s research programme over its first five years are summarised in the below table. For output details, click on the below links:

PhD Theses     MPhil Theses     Books     Journal Articles     Book Chapters     Research reports, Occassional Papers & Policy Briefs     Popular Media

DST/NRF Research Chair in Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, UWC: outputs from 2010 to 2014

Chair

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Total

Journal articles (single and co-authored)

1

1

 

5

 

7

Editing special issues of journals

 

1

 

1

 

2

Books (co-authored, edited, co-edited)

 

 

 

4

 

4

Book chapters – peer reviewed

1

1

1

5

1

9

Book chapters – not peer reviewed

 

1

1

1

 

3

Research reports and working papers

2

2

 

 

3

7

Non-academic/ popular publications

3

 

2

4

3

12

Keynote addresses and invited presentations in plenary or public event

1

2

4

2

1

10

Presentations at conferences, workshops and seminars

16

16

13

10

19

64

Awards

2

1

 

1

 

4

Media interviews

8

7

11

17

12

55

Students

 

 

 

 

 

 

PhD students - graduated

1

 

1

 

2

4

MPhil students - graduated

2

1

 

3

1

7

Post-doctoral fellow publications (incl. books, journal articles, working papers, reports)

 

1

1

9

2

13

Student publications (incl. books, journal articles, working papers, reports)

 

1

6

2

4

9

Post-doctoral fellow and student presentations at conferences, workshops and seminars

2

10

13

13

2

40

Conferences and workshops organized through the Chair

 

2

2

2

1

7

Training workshops for post-graduate students

3

2

2

2

2

11

Partnerships

The Chair has sought to establish strong collaborative partnerships with a range of international and local scholars with relevant expertise and overlapping interests.