You are here

Research Report 54: Reconsidering rural development: Using livelihood analysis to examine rural development in the former homelands of South Africa

by David Neves in 2017

This report draws on livelihoods-based analysis, in order to examine rural development, and rural development policy, within South African’s former ‘homeland’ (or ‘bantustan’) communal areas. The report commences by describing the larger context of the former homelands or bantustans, before defining ‘rural development’ and tracing policymakers’ efforts to facilitate and effect it within post-apartheid South Africa. This constitutes the broad context for the research, which serves to ‘frame’ the subsequent discussion and detailed analysis of rural livelihoods. After prefacing discussion of the policy context of rural development, the research questions and research methodology used to examine rural livelihoods in the communal areas are presented. This is followed with a brief contextualising discussion of the specific research site. The report then presents an abridged summary of household case studies derived from the qualitative data. This data is subsequently used to build a theoretically informed account of impoverished and vulnerable rural livelihoods within South Africa’s present-day communal areas. This account expounds on both the larger structural determinants of impoverished rural livelihoods, along with the micro-dynamics of household level, livelihood-making practices. It is argued that these dual elements – the larger structural determinants and everyday household level practices – cumulatively come to shape how households diversify their activities and engage with the four key ‘constitutive domains’ of rural livelihood making described in the report (viz. wages, social welfare grants, informal economic activity and agriculture). Households’ engagements with these ultimately come to pattern household social differentiation, which is, in turn, explicated in a livelihoods-informed typology of communal rural households, presented at the conceptual heart of the report. The conclusion of the report draws on the implications of this analysis of livelihoods and social differentiation, for understanding how rural development policy is conceptualised and implemented in the context of South Africa’s communal areas.