Prof Ruth Hall

SARChl Chair and Professor

professor ruth hall


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Professor Ruth Hall joined PLAAS in 2002. She holds a DPhil in Politics from the University of Oxford, where she previously obtained an MPhil in Development Studies. Her doctoral work focused on the interests, actors and discourses that influenced the development of South African land reform policy. Key research interests that have shaped her work at PLAAS are: land tenure, restitution and redistribution, gender and development policy, and broad-based agricultural development. Her work has strongly emphasised the role of rights-based policy approaches to tenure for farm workers and other poor landholders.

Until recently, her work at PLAAS focussed on research and policy advice on land and agrarian reform within South Africa. In recent years, however, her focus has extended beyond South African land and agrarian policy to incorporate a more international perspective. Her main research now is on land rights and the future of food and farming in sub-Saharan Africa. She leads a five-country study on the politics and impacts of large-scale land acquisitions, and convenes a small grants programme of twenty smaller studies covering fourteen African countries.

From being relegated to the backwaters in international development agendas, agriculture and agricultural production have recently re-emerged as central concerns for policymakers, activists and researchers. The past five years have seen a marked rise in international private and public-sector investments in farmland, in Africa and elsewhere. Some critics have dubbed these large-scale leases of public and customary land as ‘land grabs’, which could have massive implications for food security in Africa, directly impacting on access to land for Africans and on Africa’s ability to benefit from food value chains. Ruth’s research highlights how ‘overseas land investments’ could lead to an even greater concentration of power in the few agrofood multinationals, and underlines that it is essential that African realities and the local concerns of rural African farmers inform global policies.

Research Focus

Land rights and agrarian reform; land deals in Africa


  • DPhil in Politics, University of Oxford
  • MPhil in Development Studies, University of Oxford
  • BSocSc (Hons) in Political Studies, University of Cape Town

Selected Publications

  • Hall, R. and Cousins, B. 2017. Exporting contradictions: the expansion of South African agrarian capital within Africa. Globalizations, 15(1): 12-31.
  • Hall, R., Scoones, I. and Tsikata, D. 2017. Plantations, outgrowers and commercial farming in Africa: agricultural commercialisation and implications for agrarian change. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 44(3): 515-537.
  • Kepe, T. and Hall, R. 2017. Creating learning and action space in South Africa’s post-apartheid land redistribution program. Action Research.
  • Lawry, S., Samii, C., Hall, R., Leopold, A., Hornby, D. and Mtero, F. 2016. The impact of land property rights interventions on investment and agricultural productivity in developing countries: a systematic review. Journal of Development Effectiveness, 9(1): 61-81.
  • McKay, B., Hall, R. and Liu, J. (2016). The rise of BRICS: implications for global agrarian transformation. Third World Thematics: A TWQ Journal, 1(5): 581-591.
  • Scoones, I., Edelman, M., Borras, S., Hall, R., Wolford, W. and White, B. 2017. Emancipatory rural politics: confronting authoritarian populism. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 45(1): 1-20.