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Land, Water and Resource Rights

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PLAAS research has always focused on the distribution and security of rights to land, water and other natural resources in both South Africa and the wider Southern African region, and on the effectiveness of policies aimed at reforming such regimes in the interests of the rural poor. Initially the central focus was on South Africa’s land reform programme (comprising redistribution, restitution and tenure reform), but researchers soon began to explore a range of related issues, such as fisheries, community-based natural resource management and water reform. In recent years research has focused on women’s access to land, decentralised land reform in the region, the revitalisation of smallholder irrigation schemes, and ‘land grabs’ across Africa.

Our research emphasises the key role of access to land, water and natural resources within the multiple livelihoods of the poor. We explore socially differentiated patterns of resource access and use, and our research focuses on the key issue of institutional arrangements for resource governance. Here, we  seek to understand the links between property regimes, production systems and power relations, and to draw out the lessons for policy and implementation.


Latest publications on land, water and resource rights
Main researchers in this field
  • Prof Ben Cousins (land reform. restitution and redistribution in South Africa and Zimbabwe, communal land and communal resource access rights)
  • Associate Prof Mafa Hara (community-based natural resource management, fisheries management)
  • Associate Prof Ruth Hall (land reform. restitution and redistribution in South Africa, large scale land deals in Africa, farm dweller tenure security)
  • Associate Prof Moenieba Isaacs (fishing rights)
  • Dr Phillan Zamchiya (women's land rights, land-based investments, smallholder farmers, AU and global land rights frameworks)
  • Emmanuel Sulle (land tenure, rural livelihoods, women's land rights, agricultural growth corridors and inclusive business models)
  • Cyriaque Hakizimana (youth and agriculture, commercialisation and policy, responsible investment)
  • Nkanyiso Gumede (land-based investments - agriculture and mining; Land reform; Customary land tenure; and Rural livelihoods)