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Vision and Mission

PLAAS does research, policy engagement, teaching and training about the dynamics of chronic poverty and structural inequality in Southern Africa, with a particular emphasis on the key role of restructuring and contesting land holding and agro-food systems in the subcontinent and beyond. 

Our mission emphasises the central importance of the agro-food system in creating and perpetuating poverty — and also in eradicating it. For much of our existence, our work has concentrated heavily on issues of production in these systems. But our focus is broadening to consider the upstream and downstream aspects of agro-food commodity chains and systems. Key aspects of social policy affecting the dynamics of poverty and inequality in southern and South Africa are also being taken up in our work.
Within this broad field of investigation, our work focuses on the dynamics of marginalised livelihoods — particularly livelihoods which are vulnerable, structurally excluded or incorporated into broader economic systems on adverse terms.
In this respect, we have considerable expertise in analysing land- and agriculture-based livelihoods of farm workers; small and subsistence farmers; those pertaining to coastal and inland artisanal fisheries and fishing communities; and the informally self-employed in rural as well as urban areas.