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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.

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 Emmanuel Sulle in 2017

This paper analyses the configuration of land rights among different users of land at various levels of land administration. It discusses the implementation of Tanzania’s land policy reform. The key rights explored in the paper include the rights of both small-scale producers (farmers and pastoralists) and large-scale investors to agricultural land. The paper explores how the state defines, allocates, protects and compensates for land when it appropriates such rights. At the heart of this paper are the formal, informal and procedural rights that provide for and protect the rights of small-scale producers and investors, and the compensation offered to those who give up their land for investment purposes. The paper also discusses how these formal, informal and procedural rights are configured during the investment negotiation and implementation phases of land deals. It argues that, while the proposed draft National Land Policy of 2016 tries to address the core problems related to the poor coordination and implementation of the earlier Land Policy of 1995 due to a lack of political will, which derailed its performance, the current draft also has significant shortcomings. The ongoing land policy reform provides an opportunity to address the current challenges in the land sector, but it is only likely to be successful if the process becomes more inclusive, prioritizes small-scale local producers, and addresses issues of inequality and ethnic and class-based struggles over land in the country.