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by PLAAS in 2018

PLAAS engages in sustained and meaningful ways with key sectors in society – often those who are not in conversation with one another. We work with government in a variety of ways at a senior level. We work closely with social movements, non-governmental organisations, and with small-scale farmer organisations as well as agribusiness. We provide input to the private sector, especially financial institutions, both in South Africa and abroad. And we shape global perceptions of the South African land question by briefing international diplomatic and investor missions and via extensive media exposure.

With all these relationships, we are in a unique position to listen as well as to inform, and to shape and transmit key ideas and shape the emerging narrative and potential areas of consensus for a way forward.

To enable PLAAS to continue to play this role, we need to achieve financial sustainability. Currently, as a relatively small institute, largely reliant on donor-funded short-term research projects, we manage to punch above our weight in public debate, but this may not always be possible. If we cannot retain our staff, and cover our core operational costs, we will not be able to continue to play our role. We need a sustainable financial basis, an endowment fund that can provide a sustainable stream of income to enable our operations to continue.

by PLAAS in 2018

This brochure is a celebration of more than 23 years of research, teaching and policy engagement at PLAAS. Catch a snap shot of our publications, research areas, research partnerships, public engagement, media engagement, teaching, and staffing over the last two decades.

by Refiloe Joala in 2018

After six decades of policy experimentation, and efforts to promote economic diversification and reduce the country’s over-reliance on copper mining, Zambia has failed to fully capitalise on the country’s agricultural potential (Neubert et al 2011). Endowed with agricultural land which accounts for 32% of the 75 million hectares of total land area, the landlocked country also boasts abundant water resources and favourable agro-climatic conditions (Zambia Development Agency 2015). While the significance of smallholder agriculture for food production and rural livelihoods has been consistently emphasised in Zambia’s agricultural policies since independence (Eidsvoll 2011, Davies et al 2015), the narrative of resource abundance in policy thinking has equally maintained an agricultural-growth outlook which gives priority to large-scale commercial farming. This policy approach, along with global concerns about dwindling resources in the face of population growth and a growing demand for food and energy, has established renewed investor interest in Zambia’s food and agriculture sectors (Scoones et al 2016, Hall et al 2015).

Large-scale land acquisitions for commercial farming and corporate investments in agricultural value chains have led to rapid changes in land-use patterns, and the rise of ‘flex crops’, particularly soybean. These are crops and commodities with multiple uses (food, feed, fuel, industrial materials, etc.) that can be sold in multiple markets (Borras et al 2016).

The promotion of soybean production across Southern Africa in recent years can be linked to a broader international soya complex, consisting of soya beans, soybean oil (a key fat ingredient in industrial food manufacturing) and soybean meal (used for food and animal feeds). As one of the most heavily-traded commodities in the world, global soybean production has expanded at an average rate of 4.8% since 1990, with 71% of growth attributed to additional harvested hectares in land area while the other 29% has come from higher yields. While production remains geographically concentrated, with four countries - Brazil, USA, Argentina and China - accounting for 90% of the global output, soybean production across Southern Africa is growing rapidly as a result of increased corporate investment in production technology and input supply, primary production, processing and market development (Gasparri et al 2015).



by Amelia Genis in 2018

Rural employment is a key policy issue in South Africa, yet the National Development Plan (NDP) of 2012 suggests that one million jobs can be created in agricultural production, processing and related activities. The plan suggests that more jobs can be created by increased investment in water and irrigation infrastructure, linking small scale farmers with markets, creating tenure security for farmers in communal areas, innovative financing and joint ventures. In the plan, a matrix depicting “agricultural growth and employment potential” shows that citrus, nuts, subtropical and deciduous fruit and vegetables demonstrate potential for both high growth and labour intensity. This Working Paper focuses on the potential for job creation in the citrus sub-sector, which is believed to be one of the biggest employers in agriculture as well as one of the sub-sectors with the biggest potential for job creation due to the dynamic nature of its expansion. Ongoing research shows that jobs can indeed be created through the expansion of orchards in the large-scale commercial sector and by establishing orchards on land designated for production by new black farmers, as well as in citrus nurseries, packing sheds and in processing. However, expansion of production is constrained by the availability of water, access to capital to buy land and establish orchards and the struggle to enhance market access in a global environment of proliferating non-tariff barriers and competitive trade negotiations. Furthermore, the recent introduction of a National Minimum Wage (NMW) at a higher level than the sectoral determination for agriculture may lead to efforts to rationalise the present workforce, rather than creating jobs, whereas accumulation strategies of commercial farmers are often aimed at mechanisation, reorganisation and casualisation in order to employ fewer workers.

Keywords: citrus, agriculture, job creation, citrus production, resources, constraints

by Barbara van Koppen, Barbara Nompumelelo Tapela, Everisto Mapedza in 2018

In the global debates on the modes of farming, including irrigated farming, that are viable for the majority of rural people, three models prevail: (i) smallholder family farming; (ii) farming led by agribusiness’ capital, technologies, and forward and backward linkages in an estate mode; and (iii) agribusiness-led farming in an out-grower mode. In South Africa, these three and more modes of irrigated agriculture have been implemented. In the colonial era, in most of the country, the state supported a white-dominated estate mode of farming based on wage labor. Smallholder family farming remained confined to black people in the former homelands. Smallholder irrigation schemes in the former homelands were out-grower schemes, managed by the colluding apartheid state, white agribusiness and irrigation industry. Since independence in 1994, the search for viable modes of farming and irrigation is high on the policy agenda. This is part of the envisaged transition of the state into a tripartite constellation of citizens, state and service providers that delivers accountable, outcome-based services. 

Smallholder irrigation schemes in former homelands face particular challenges in this transition. One of the piloted solutions is a blend of the estate and out-grower mode of farming: the joint venture. Smallholders pool their plots and hand over the land for management by a strategic partner from the agribusiness with capital for inputs, technologies, and linkages to input and output markets. The government ensures the construction of irrigation infrastructure. However, the results of this option were mixed. As a contribution to the search for viable modes of smallholder irrigated farming, this report analyzes the events and outcomes of smallholder irrigation schemes in former homelands where joint ventures were piloted. The method used is an in-depth historical case study (or ‘biography’) applied to the Flag Boshielo irrigation scheme in Limpopo Province. Situated on the riparian strips along the Olifants River, the overall scheme consists of a row of 13 smallholder sub-schemes (or ‘farms’) of about 100 hectares (ha) each on the right bank and one smallholder sub-scheme on the left bank. Six joint ventures have been implemented since 2001; three, which had started in 2009, had discontinued by 2012. The report starts by tracing the early dispossession and later resettlement of black smallholders under the gendered apartheid policies of forced removals, divide and rule to break resistance, food security, and white agribusiness and irrigation development. In these out-grower arrangements, smallholders were food secure, but not more than laborers on their own fields, while subsidized parastatal development corporations managed inputs, production, irrigation, storage and sale of the produce.

The report concludes with recommendations on how to further operationalize these policies. For joint ventures, recommendations include a robust bilateral contract between the strategic partner and smallholders with clear goals and enforcement of employment generation, production and marketing skills transfer and contacts, risk management and internal governance. Support to exchange among peers is also recommended. Further, smallholders in joint ventures and other public smallholder irrigation schemes would benefit from stronger land tenure arrangements backed by the government. Government support is also key to diversify irrigation technologies for women and men smallholders. Lastly, further comparison of different joint ventures and between joint ventures, smallholder schemes, and the continuing spontaneous initiatives in the Flag Boshielo irrigation scheme and elsewhere, will shed more light on viable modes of irrigated farming that achieve job creation, food security, poverty alleviation and skills development.