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As the DST/NRF Chair in Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (2010–2014), Prof Ben Cousins has initiated a five-year research programme on Land Reform, Food Systems and Agrarian Change in South Africa and established a Research Group of twelve post-graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.

The group seeks to answer:
  1. What processes of socio-economic change, underway in the South African countryside, 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?
Research is taking place in three key contexts:
  1. large scale commercial farming which dominates South African agriculture at present;
  2. emerging successful small-to-medium-scale black farmers in communal areas, on private land and in land reform projects; and
  3. rural households in commercial farming districts and communal areas living in chronic poverty.
The five-fold overall objectives of the programme are to:
  1. conduct rigorous field-based research that produces theoretically informed and empirically grounded insights into complex and dynamic social realities;
  2. develop recommendations for policy makers and programme managers from government, civil society and the private sector;
  3. communicate research findings and policy recommendations to relevant decision-makers;
  4. publish research findings in internationally recognised and peer-reviewed publication formats; and
  5. contribute to international scholarship.

The following projects are under way at present:

Research Chair
  • Smallholder farming in Tugela Ferry Irrigation Scheme, Msinga, KwaZulu-Natal
Post-doctoral fellow
  • Laura Evans: Agri-villages and farm worker tenure rights
PhD students
  • Nerhene Davis: Great expectations for strategic partnerships and agrarian reform in Limpopo: Actors, process and outcome
  • Donna Hornby: Social differentiation and class dynamics in the Commercial Land Reform Farmer Support Programme in KwaZulu-Natal
  • Tshililo Manenzhe: Strategic Partnerships in the Levubu Valley: Agrarian change and the fate of farm workers
  • Farai Mtero: Smallholders and social differentiation in the Massive Food Production Programme, Eastern Cape
  • Pauline Stanford: Agro-food commodity chains, scale of production and the sustainability of commercial farming in KwaSani District, KwaZulu-Natal
MPhil students, full thesis
  • Alex Dubb: Smallholder out-grower schemes in the sugar sector in KwaZulu-Natal
  • Amelia Genis: Uncertain expectations: Commercial farmers in South Africa in an era of rapid social, political and economic change
  • Marc Lewis: Small-scale food production projects in Johannesburg: Lessons for food security and sustainable farming in urban South Africa
MPhil students, mini-thesis
  • Thoko Buthelezi: Sustainability and pro-poor value chain governance in Tugela Ferry Irrigation Scheme, Msinga, KwaZulu-Natal
  • Nonhlanzeko Mthembu: farming systems in ex-labour tenant communities in KwaZulu-Natal
  • Thulisile Msomi: Smallholder organic farming for supermarkets: the case of the Ezemvelo Farmer’s Co-operative