You are here

by Margareet Visser, Shane Godfrey in 2017

The paper explores one aspect of the food security question, namely the livelihoods of farmworkers, which ultimately speaks to the sustainability of farms and the provision of food. It focuses on the emergence of locally made private social codes (Wine and Agricultural Ethical Trade Association – WIETA, and Sustainability Initiative of South Africa – SIZA) in the Western Cape fruit and wine sectors and how compliance with such codes has increasingly become a requirement to export to certain markets (being an aspect of vertical governance in the fruit and wine value chains). Many standards in private social codes duplicate rights in national legislation, but some standards improve on statutory rights and certain enabling standards that offer leveraging opportunities to worker organisations to further improve wages and working conditions. Such leveraging constitutes a form of horizontal governance of the fruit and wine value chains. The paper analyses key sections of the two locally made social codes against the Fairtrade code and Sectoral Determination 13 (SD13). The analysis indicates where the codes improve on SD13 and how they compare to the Fairtrade code, which is generally seen to offer the best enabling standards for workers. The paper then presents the results of empirical research on the extent to which worker organisations – that is, trade unions and labour-oriented non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – have leveraged relevant standards to effect improvements for workers. The role of the state in facilitating such leveraging is also explored. The paper finds that, in general, worker organisations have little knowledge of the WIETA and SIZA codes and hardly any attempts have been made to leverage the codes. The only contestation of the codes that had a significant impact was from an actor outside the sector and country, namely the documentary film-maker who produced Bitter Grapes. The paper questions why worker organisations have made so little of the codes. The low capacity of such organisations is one explanation, but these organisations are also disenchanted with the codes because WIETA’s and SIZA’s sanctioning of non-compliance has been insufficient. However, probably the main reason for the failure to leverage codes is that they focus on the farm rather than the value chain. This focus excludes (primarily) global retailers and the failings in vertical governance from an assessment of the limited impact of codes. On the one hand, it is evident to many that codes are more for appearances to mollify consumers, rather than to drive real changes in working conditions and labour relations on farms. On the other hand, in terms of farmers’ bargaining power vis-à-vis global buyers and worker organisations’ ability to make gains for workers by leveraging the codes, the effectiveness of the codes’ horizontal governance has been seriously undermined by the South African state.

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.

by David Neves in 2017

Persistent poverty and under-development in South Africa’s former homeland communal areas have been little changed by post-apartheid ‘rural development’ policy. Rural development policy has often been characterised by impulses towards topdown planning, a default assumption that agriculture ought to drive rural development, a reliance on resource-intensive income generation projects, and general inattention to the larger economy (including the role of urban linkages, employment and markets). Contested rural governance and weak public administration further inhibit rural development in the communal areas. Against this backdrop, livelihoods-orientated enquiry amongst impoverished rural households contributes to reassessing and rethinking rural development policy. This policy brief draws on qualitative and quantitative enquiry undertaken in a former ‘homeland’ or ‘bantustan’, in the rural Eastern Cape (Neves, 2017). The research combined in-depth household interviews with longitudinal (across time) NIDS (National Income Dynamics Study) and area-based Census 2011 data. Integrating these enables the depth and specificity of household qualitative inquiry to be contextualised in relation to larger (quantitative) dynamics.

by Leif Petersen, Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation in 2017

Corporate retailers constitute an important element of the core of the South African food economy. Our submission argues that formal sector grocery retail is distorting food economies in ways which disadvantage other stakeholders of food value chains (Greenberg 2016). These effects are felt both upstream in the packaging, processing and production of food as well as horizontally among informal-sector grocery retailers. Some important factors that impact on grocery retailing in the township economy are:

  1. Inappropriate government policies (in particular municipal policies towards informal micro-enterprises)
  2. Unfair competition from the corporate retailing sector via shopping malls and large chain businesses by creating localised grocery retailing monopolies in the township residential setting.
  3. Unfair competition from the corporate retailing sector by government outsourcing of SASSA grants distribution to corporate retailers “captures” an essential revenue stream. 

In addition, formal food retailers unfold significant up-stream value-chain impacts: procurement standards are often exclusionary, and participation in formal retail chains is at terms very disadvantageous to small producers, who cannot easily meet stringent quality, cold-chain and reliability standards. This encourages the further consolidation of upstream segments of food value chains spanning production, processing and packaging. This tends to promote the development of a less diversified and competitive food economy.

Furthermore, grocery retailers have immense power in structuring consumer perceptions on food quality and health, from input into apparently neutral dietary-based guidelines to advertising (Greenberg 2016). Through product selection, placement, in-store promotion and advertising, large corporate retailers promote ultra- processed, highly processed and branded products emerging from highly-concentrated, capital-intensive food- processing industries. They thus cultivate a consumer food environment which disadvantages small, local producers and processors to the benefit of the capital-intensive formal food processing industry.

Inappropriate policy commonly includes municipal land use zoning and business permitting within informal economy and specifically township businesses. Land use zoning in townships is primarily for residential use only, and changing zoning to allow for business activities requires cumbersome and technocratic bureaucratic procedures largely out of reach of most informal economy businesses. Conversely formal sector business – in particular South African supermarket chains have the legal and financial means to buy and rezone land to suit their business needs. The unfairness of this competition lies less in the actions of the formal retailers, but in the perpetuation of the structural inequality of South Africa’s economy that favours formal sector business over an emerging entrepreneurial class of township retailers. The outcome of this power imbalance in a community such as Delft South (the case study in this submission) is potentially localised monopolies of grocery trading.

by David Neves in 2016

Within South Africa, the deeply entrenched process of industrialization, 'de-agrarianisation' and proletarianization have made for a highly dichotomous and racialized countryside one where agricultural modernity exists alongside widespread poverty and deprivation. This presentation at the IIPPE Agrarian Change Working Group Conference discusses how South Africa’s rural poor sustain themselves through small-scale survivalist agricultural production and other petty informal economic activities, alongside precarious links to formal or urban employment and receipt of welfare transfers. The presentation accordingly challenges the usefulness of a narrow or exclusive 'agrarian' focus, in understanding the position of impoverished and vulnerable rural populations both in South Africa and more widely.