Land reform policy will fail if it ignores where the major demand for land lies. Professors William Beinart and Peter Delius analyse historical trajectories and current levels of production to show that the rapid transfer of more land to smallholder farmers will not be the solution the country needs.
Smallholders occupy a considerable area of agricultural land in South Africa, perhaps 23-25% (over 20 million ha).
Evidence suggests that smallholder farming is on the decline. There are exceptions and it is important to report on ‘pockets of dynamism’.
It is essential that the current landholders receive upgraded, secure tenure in these areas.
The key issue is the provision of capital, inputs and skills to bring into production and to enhance rural livelihoods rather than spread rural poverty.
Land reform and agricultural policy should unlock the productive potential of current smallholders where possible but policy should also encourage investments in non-agricultural routes to rural development and improved livelihoods. Read op-Ed: Case for higher minimum pay is dangerous