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Defining Small-Scale Farmers in the South African Context



South African agriculture is comprised of mainly two categories of farmers -- the subsistence farmers in the former homeland areas and the large-scale commercial (mainly white) farmers. This is in contrast with the situation in many other countries in the world where one would find a whole range of farm sizes, ranging from the very small or subsistence farmer to the very large farmer/agribusiness. The paper highlights the situation of small-scale farmers in an international context and compares it with the South African situation that is totally different. Within this context, this paper has as basic premise that in South Africa the concept of "small-scale farmer" is usually value-laden, creates wrong impressions and is often viewed in a negative light. "Small-scale" is often equated with a backward, nonproductive, non-commercial, subsistence agriculture that we find in parts of the former homeland areas. This paper endeavours to correct the negative perceptions towards smallscale farms by redefining the small-scale farmer and laying to rest the fallacy that small relates to land size only.
Agrekon, Vol 37, No 4 (December 1998) Kirsten & Van Zyl
J.F. Kirsten and J. van Zyl1
South African agriculture is comprised of mainly two categories of farmers -- the subsistence
farmers in the former homeland areas and the large-scale commercial (mainly white) farmers.
This is in contrast with the situation in many other countries in the world where one would
find a whole range of farm sizes, ranging from the very small or subsistence farmer to the
very large farmer/agribusiness. The paper highlights the situation of small-scale farmers in
an international context and compares it with the South African situation that is totally
different. Within this context, this paper has as basic premise that in South Africa the
concept of "small-scale farmer" is usually value-laden, creates wrong impressions and is
often viewed in a negative light. "Small-scale" is often equated with a backward, non-
productive, non-commercial, subsistence agriculture that we find in parts of the former
homeland areas. This paper endeavours to correct the negative perceptions towards small-
scale farms by redefining the small-scale farmer and laying to rest the fallacy that small
relates to land size only.
In analysing South African agrarian history, one finds overwhelming
evidence of how various policies and government actions have reduced small-
scale farming in South Africa to a state where it contributes very little to the
economy as a whole and to the welfare and livelihoods of rural dwellers. A
combination of factors ranging from coercive policies and rent seeking by
large-scale farm lobbies to population pressure and climate and other natural
factors led to the downfall of a once dynamic, market responsive and
competitive sector.
One of the most challenging socio-economic problems currently facing South
Africa is how the large number of African rural residents could be assisted in
establishing viable rural livelihoods. There is ample international evidence
that small-scale agriculture has the potential to generate employment and
income opportunities in rural areas. It is argued that small-scale farmers are
potentially competitive in certain activities and that, with proactive policy
support, these opportunities could be developed into “viable niches” for a
future smallholder sector. The challenge in South Africa is to remove the
1 Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development, University
of Petoria.
Agrekon, Vol 37, No 4 (December 1998) Kirsten & Van Zyl
structural constraints that inhibit the growth of a vibrant commercial
smallholder sector.
In this paper we endeavour to address some negative perceptions towards
small-scale farming by properly defining the small-scale farmer and laying to
rest the fallacy that small relates to land size only. The paper firstly addresses
the definition of small-scale farmers. It then highlights the international
debate around small-scale farmers and compares it with the South African
situation, which is totally different.
South African agriculture is comprised of mainly two categories of farmers--
subsistence farmers in the former homeland areas and large-scale commercial
(mainly white) farmers. This is in contrast with the situation in many other
countries in the world where one would find a whole range of farm sizes,
ranging from the very small (often subsistence) farmer to the very large
farmer/agribusiness type. In South Africa the concept of "small-scale farmer"
is usually value-laden, creates wrong impressions and is often viewed in a
negative light.
In South Africa "small-scale" is often equated with a backward, non-
productive, non-commercial, subsistence agriculture that we find in parts of
the former homeland areas. It is generally associated with black farmers, as if
black farmers do not have the ability to become large-scale commercial
farmers. On the other hand, white farmers are generally perceived to be large-
scale commercial farmers, who are modern and efficient, using advanced
technology. These generalisations are a misrepresentation of the facts. For
example, almost 25% of all farms in the “white” commercial sector covers a
land area smaller than 200 ha and almost 5% less than 10ha. While these farms
are small, they are considered to be “commercial”, although they make a
small contribution to South Africa’s total gross farm income.
What’s in a name?
When attempting to discuss the “commercial viability of small-scale farmers”,
one is not certain who to focus on--emerging farmers, subsistence farmers in
the homelands, black farmers, small-scale white farmers, previously
disadvantaged farmers, farmers on small pieces of land or farmers with a
small turnover. This dilemma illustrates the problem associated with the term
“small-scale” farmer. Coetzee (1998) refers to this problem when stating that
Agrekon, Vol 37, No 4 (December 1998) Kirsten & Van Zyl
small farmers are usually defined in terms of agricultural activity in whatever
Two recent surveys in the Northern Province and KwaZulu-Natal prove the
point (Outtara & Graham, 1996; Baydas & Graham, 1996). These surveys
were divided into small business and small farmer surveys. The results from
these surveys indicate that farming plays a small role in terms of income,
although a major proportion of small farming households (and small business
households) cultivate the land and produce crops. Thus very small
proportions are sold and the majority of the households are deficit producers
(Van Zyl & Coetzee, 1990). These are often the typical households which
many people would picture as small-scale farmers. The results, however,
show remarkably similar characteristics between small business and small
farmers, emphasising that both target groups have multiple sources of
income. Moreover, the so-called small enterprises that are considered to be
non-farm, sometimes have more farming interests than the target group of
small farmers. For example, the so-called small farmer target group in
Kwazulu-Natal earned 2.8% of total household income from farming, while
the micro-entrepreneurs target group earned on average 8.5% of total income
from farming. The point is that poor rural households usually generate
income from several sources--as farmers or businessmen or pensioners.
The scepticism of many people about small-scale farming also relates to
viability or a viable farm size. South Africans typically judge a farm’s viability
on its land size without necessarily considering other attributes, for example
the specific farming enterprise or managerial ability. Defining the “viable
farm” in terms of size alone had a profoundly negative effect on the relative
profitability of farms smaller than the viable size. Given the historic high
levels of official assistance and subsidies to farmers during the previous five
decades, the viability definition became almost a self-fulfilling prophecy
because, under the Agricultural Credit Act, all farms below the viable size
were excluded from assistance. Moreover, under the Subdivision of
Agricultural Land Act of 1970, it is not possible to subdivide an existing title
deed without ministerial approval. Permission is granted only with proof that
a reasonable net farm income can be obtained with ‘average’ management.
The subjectivity of this requirement, together with the lending criteria of the
official funding agencies, precludes systematic empirical analysis of small
farms in South Africa. Ironically, the benchmark for determining farm
viability, farm size, has changed over time. During the 1960s and 1970s,
expansion and mechanisation were considered the solution to remain
competitive with non-farm incomes. However, in the 1980s, the high debt
ratios reduced farm profitability. Thus many farms once thought to be viable
Agrekon, Vol 37, No 4 (December 1998) Kirsten & Van Zyl
according to criteria set in the 1970s, were exposed as being not viable in the
financial crisis of the 1980s.
What is a small farm?
With the specific mind-set referred to above firmly entrenched in South
Africa, it is no wonder that small farms were always considered in a negative
light. It is thus fairly obvious why small-scale agriculture in South Africa
never really had a chance in a policy environment that deliberately favoured
large-scale farms. The fact that there is not a strong small farming sector in
South Africa contributes to the scepticism and confusion about small-scale
farming. That what many people equate to small farmers--the farmers in the
former homelands farming on one hectare of dryland or less--are not the small
farming types we have in mind, and also not what the international literature
is reporting on. So, what is a small farm then?
Size is not a good criterion for defining small farms. For example, one hectare
of irrigated peri-urban land, suitable for vegetable farming or herb gardening,
has a higher profit potential than 500 hectares of low quality land in the
Karoo. Turnover, or rather the level of net farm income, determines the farm
size category, not the land size.
Lund and Price (1998) and Lund (1983) highlight the problem of defining farm
size categories further by illustrating that any proposed method of
classification of farm sizes can be problematic:
“..there is no generally accepted measure of firm size in the economics literature to
guide the choice in the specifically agricultural context. Various measures of output,
sales or turnover; of inputs, both flow or stock based (e.g. number of employees or
value of fixed capital), and of the incomes (accruing or capitalised) of a company’s
equity holders have been used in different contexts. Moreover the most obvious
measure in the agricultural context, land area, may be a poor economic measure of
farm size since land is so variable in its agricultural attributes and farms of different
types can require vastly different areas of land for the same value of output. The
possibility of weighting land areas on the basis of a land (quality) classification system
could be considered, but would raise problems including the attribution of weights.”
Thus, when we use the term small farm in the rest of the paper, it should be
interpreted against the above arguments related to farm size. The bottom-line
is that a small farm is a relative concept--relative to the particular ecological
region and soil quality and also relative to the particular farming industry. It
should also be emphasised that small-scale farms are not simply scaled down
Agrekon, Vol 37, No 4 (December 1998) Kirsten & Van Zyl
models of large farms. Systematic differences in output and input intensities
result from farm-size effects and have important policy implications (Tomich,
Kilby and Johnston, 1995).
The mistaken perception that small farms are less efficient than large farms
stems in part from the illusion of modernity: a farm endowed with tractors
and combine harvesters looks modern and appears efficient. The view that
large, capital intensive farms are more economically efficient than small farms
is based on beliefs about economies of scale in farming. A large majority of
agricultural production function studies find either no or negative economies
of scale in farming (Lipton, et al.,1996).
The definition of a small-scale farm is also important for the government.
From a policy point of view the Department of Agriculture needs to identify
its target group or clientele. They could use the following definition to
identify the small farmer target group, which they would like to, and should
“A small farmer is one whose scale of operation is too small to attract the provision of
the services he/she needs to be able to significantly increase his/her productivity.”
It is these farmers that need government assistance and who should be
empowered to form part of a new and vibrant agricultural sector.
International empirical evidence illustrates that small-scale farmers in
developing countries are considered to be more efficient (or at least as
efficient) given a level playing field, than large-scale farmers. This has been
established empirically in Asia, Latin America and Africa. These studies on
small-scale farming have taken the farm-size/productivity relationship and
the issue of economies of scale, as the underlying theme.
The literature demonstrates that a systematic relationship between farm size
and productivity is the result of market imperfections, and then only when
more than a single market is imperfect. For example, if credit is rationed
according to farm size, but all other markets are perfect, land and labour
market transactions will produce a farm structure that equalises yields across
farms of different operational size. But, if there are imperfections in two
markets--land rental and insurance, or credit and labour--a systematic
(positive) relationship can arise between farm size and productivity.
Agrekon, Vol 37, No 4 (December 1998) Kirsten & Van Zyl
In countries like South Africa, where markets facing small farmers for any
combination of labour, land, credit, land rental, insurance, etc., are generally
imperfect or missing (at least for some farmers, in general smaller farmers),
this may give rise to real economies of scale over the short-term. However,
these economies of scale are ‘false’ in the sense that they are only temporary,
and the result of deliberate elimination of, or restrictions on, the markets.
With development of these markets, economies of scale diminish and
eventually disappear. Thus, the issue is not to pursue a farm structure that
captures these benefits over the short-term but that over the long-term gets a
country locked into an inefficient and inequitable structure centring on large-
scale mechanised farms.
Even without economies of scale, the question remains whether size matters.
Are larger farms more productive and/or profitable than smaller ones, even if
an argument cannot be made for superior technical efficiency? The answer to
this is not clear. Policies are rarely scale neutral, and external economies of
scale are a reality. While these tend to favour larger farms on the one hand,
there are considerable transaction costs in the labour market, as well as
supervision costs, that, on the other hand, favour smaller farms. The issue
thus is what the net effect is.
Most of the empirical work on the farm size-productivity relationship has
been flawed by methodological shortcomings, and has failed to deal
adequately with the complexity of the issues involved, as we have discussed
earlier. It is in many cases the quality of land and management, which is not
properly accounted for. Also, productivity measurement is erroneously
confined to one factor of production. In general, studies that come to grips
with some of these problems consistently show the superiority of smaller
farms over large farms.
Numerous studies provide empirical evidence at the micro-level of the
existence of an inverse relationship between farm size and the efficiency of
resource use--as farm size increases, efficiency declines. This relationship is
basically due to higher efficiency of family labour as compared to hired
labour, in combination with commonly observed imperfections in credit and
land rental markets (Binswanger et al, 1993). Berry and Cline (1979) found that
the value added per unit of invested capital for the second smallest farm size
group (10 to 50 ha) exceeded that of the largest farm size groups (200 to 500
ha) in Brazil.
Evidence is also available at the macro-level, but only in terms of physical
yields--an imperfect indicator of efficiency. Prosterman and Riedinger (1987),
Agrekon, Vol 37, No 4 (December 1998) Kirsten & Van Zyl
using data from 117 countries, show that 11 of the top 14 countries in terms of
grain yields per hectare are countries in which small-scale, family farming is
the dominant mode of production.
However, studies by Feder (1985) and Carter & Kalfayan (1989), demonstrate
that the existence of market imperfections that tend to favour large farms (e.g.
capital and insurance markets) may negate the inverse relationship between
farm size and productivity. Carter (1994) finds that certain financial market
disadvantages may render small farms non-competitive. Hence, whereas the
small-scale farming strategy holds considerable promise from an efficiency
perspective, this does not mean that its implementation is easy or can afford
to ignore critical policy issues, such as resolving the usually constrained
access of small farmers to credit markets.
Also underlying the establishment and maintenance of large-scale farms is the
misguided perception that there is a relationship between mechanisation and
large farms (see Johnson & Ruttan, 1994). Capital intensity is explained by the
substitution of capital for labour because of high wages. This substitution
process, brought about by changes in relative factor prices (Peterson and
Kislev, 1991), indirectly cause larger farms. Machinery, in turn, allows farmers
to work progressively larger units of land (Hayami & Ruttan, 1985).
In this respect, the work of Brewster (1950) on the influence of machinery on
farm size is enlightening: mechanisation in industry involves stationary
machinery which implies that the number of workers can be increased
substantially without increasing labour supervision costs. In agriculture,
labour and machines are mobile, making supervision expensive and
increasing management costs. In addition, agricultural tasks are sequential in
nature due to the annual cycle of production. This limits the opportunities for
specialisation and division of labour, which creates few advantages to
expansion beyond the size of owner-operator.
The literature clearly demonstrates (cf. Berry &Cline, 1979; Binswanger &
Rosenzweig, 1986; Binswanger & Kinsey, 1993; Binswanger & Elgin, 1992;
Binswanger et al, 1993) that family farms are generally more efficient and
superior to other types of farming because of the way in which labour
relations are organised. Family farms, by definition, are farms where the
owner is the operator and where his/her family provides the large bulk of the
regular labour requirements throughout the year. Presumably small-scale
(family) farmers are willing to put more time and energy into their enterprise
than would be justified at full market wage rates, since the incentives are
going directly to the decision-maker (Delgado, 1996). It is for this reason--the
Agrekon, Vol 37, No 4 (December 1998) Kirsten & Van Zyl
stronger reliance on family labour--that small-scale farmers can be more
efficient than large-scale farmers. While the definition of family farms does
not exclude the hiring of other people, especially in a part-time capacity when
related to seasonal labour, it tends not to rely too much on such behaviour.
Despite the achievements of small-scale agriculture elsewhere in the world,
the fact is that economic conditions for smallholder farming in Sub-Saharan
Africa are especially tough, and have shaped smallholder behaviour in a way
that is not always the best from the standpoint of increasing incomes. Missing
or incomplete input and output markets are some of the structural constraints
small-scale farmers have to cope with. These structural constraints manifest
themselves in high and often prohibitive transaction costs. Overcoming these
transaction costs can be considered to be at the heart of a strategy for
increasing the access of smallholders to the assets, information, services and
markets necessary to grow their incomes. Delgado (1998) and Von Braun et al.
(1998) recently indicated that the principal tool for reducing transaction costs
is institutional innovation.
This paper endeavoured to correct the negative perceptions towards small-
scale farms by redefining the small-scale farmer and laying to rest the fallacy
that small relates to land size only. In doing so the paper emphasised that the
concept of "small-scale farmer" should not be value-laden and viewed in a
negative light. "Small-scale" is not backward, non-productive, non-
commercial, subsistence agriculture that we find in parts of the former
homeland areas.
A small number of case studies in South Africa (cf. Ngqangweni et al., 1997)
have, already shown that small scale farmers do exist in South Africa and are
at least as viable, profitable and efficient as their large scale counterparts. The
relative efficiency of smaller-scale farmers, however, depends on the
neutrality of the policy framework facing farmers.
Hopefully this paper has cleared the misperceptions related to small-scale
farmers. It is important to realise that government, policy makers and all
agricultural economists should now determine what should be done to ensure
a “place in the sun” for small-scale farmers. Government has a tremendous
task to lower the transaction cost barriers facing smallholders. Failing to do so
would ensure that very few successful small-scale farmers would emerge
leading to a continuation of subsistence agriculture. It is therefore the task of
the agricultural economics profession in South Africa to rid them of the
Agrekon, Vol 37, No 4 (December 1998) Kirsten & Van Zyl
negative attitude towards smallholder agriculture and accept the importance
of the New Institutional Economics as an ideological tool in assessing the
constraints facing smallholders.
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increase in size, they experience advantages in terms of access to inputs, credit,
services, storage facilities, or marketing and distribution opportunities relative to
smaller farms. This gives large farms real advantages relative to small farms due to
pecuniary economies or policy distortions rather than to greater efficiency. On the
other hand, diseconomies of scale may also occur, for example when the labour market
fails; or do not exist, when transaction costs in the labour market are high, or when
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... The World Bank (2010) defines smallholders as farmers with a landholding of between 0.5 -5 hectares with a low asset base. However, Kirsten & van Zyl (1998) dispute this definition by the World Bank, indicating that characterising a group of individuals based on their landholding alone is misleading. Kirsten & van Zyl (1998) asserted that size alone is not a good criterion for defining smallholder farmers. ...
... However, Kirsten & van Zyl (1998) dispute this definition by the World Bank, indicating that characterising a group of individuals based on their landholding alone is misleading. Kirsten & van Zyl (1998) asserted that size alone is not a good criterion for defining smallholder farmers. For example, one hectare of irrigated peri-urban land, suitable for vegetable farming or herb gardening, has a higher profit potential than 500 hectares of low-quality land in the Karoo. ...
... For example, one hectare of irrigated peri-urban land, suitable for vegetable farming or herb gardening, has a higher profit potential than 500 hectares of low-quality land in the Karoo. Turnover, or net farm income level, determines the farm size category and not the land size (Kirsten & van Zyl, 1998). This study follows this assertion and doesn't use landholding as the main criterion to define smallholder farmers. ...
... There exists a pronounced dichotomy in the farming system of KwaZulu-Natal: on the one hand, a very dynamic commercial component, on the other hand, a weaker smallholding farming system (Kirsten and Van Zyl, 1998;Pienaar, 2013). ...
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Not many efforts have been made so far to understand the effects of both the 2015−2016 drought and the 2020 lockdown measures on the agricultural production of smallholder vis-a-vis commercial farmers in Kwazulu-Natal. Google Earth Engine, and random forest algorithm, are used to generate a dataset that help to investigate this question. A regression is performed on the double difference data to investigate the effects of interest. A k-mean cluster analysis, is also used to determine whether the distribution patterns of crop production changed with drought and disruption of agricultural production input. Results show that: (1) droughts affected the agricultural production of both areas similarly. Crop cover declined in both areas for one season after droughts were broken. Then recovery was driven by greener, more productive crops rather than the expansion of crop area. (2) The response of both areas to the COVID-19 lockdown was also similar. Both smallholder and commercial areas' Normalised Difference Vegetation Index – a proxy for crop vitality – improved in response to regulations favourable to the sector and improved rainfall. No significant adjustments in crop cover were observed. Production therefore changed primarily at the intensive margin (improved productivity of existing croplands) rather than the extensive (changing the extent of land under cultivation). (3) Cluster analysis allows for a more granular view, showing that the positive impact of lockdowns on agriculture were concentrated in areas with high rainfall and close proximity to metropolitan markets. Both smallholder and commercial farmers therefore are reliant on market access together with favourable environmental conditions for improved production.
... The classification of small-scale farmers in the South African context is complex as size is not the only factor used to determine what constitutes a small-scale farm. Other factors such as enterprise, level of mechanization and technology employed, income from farming etc. are also taken into consideration [22]. This is further reflected in the use of numerous terms to describe these kinds of farmers such as subsistence, semi-commercial, emerging etc. [16]. ...
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Agriculture is arguably one of the most important economic sectors for South Africa’s development as it is directly linked to food security. Farming systems in South Africa have been characterized by a duality where large-scale commercial farmers and small-scale farmers co-exist. The conventional approach to understanding agricultural production in the country has always viewed the two farming systems as mutually exclusive. The study argues that there are various points of interaction between the two kinds of farmers and by using a systems dynamics approach to evaluate the two farming systems this can be applied to agricultural decision making. Data were used to identify and characterise small- and large-scale farming systems of two tree crops (mangos -Mangifera indica L. and macadamia nuts-Macadamia integrifolia M&B.) in the Vhembe district of Limpopo South Africa. The interactions between the two different farmers are illustrated using Causal Loop Diagrams (CLDs) of the two farming systems under similar commodities. Results, presented as four conceptual scenarios, show that there are multiple points of interaction, such as the interdependence of farmers of macadamia nuts to meet export demands. Policy recommendations to strengthen collaboration between small-scale mango farmers and implement irrigation expansion for farmers who depend on rain-fed farming are discussed and present opportunities for the co-functioning of the two farming systems.
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Small-scale agriculture has a vital role to play in the broader issue of food security. Land and water are two critical requirements for any farming, and with climate change, access to water is becoming even more of a concern. There is an ever-growing need to address the sustainable use of water for these farmers, especially in water-constrained urban areas. This design study was aimed at mitigating the irrigation issues that the farmers face, as mentioned above. The lack of accessible, affordable, and contextually appropriate irrigation technology has been a barrier encountered by most small-scale farmers. Limitation of resources and the need for affordable tooling and manufacturing drive the demand for low-cost product development. The high cost of initial setup, maintenance, and training for correct equipment use often deters farmers from venturing out to seek solutions for their problems. This calls for contextually appropriate innovations that allow for adoption by farmers. Open-source forums and platforms were utilized to develop electrical and physical prototypes that monitored the farmers' water use patterns. The incorporation of new technological advancements enabled the development of appropriate technology that meets the intended users' requirements, in this case, the farmers. Through a Human-Centered Design lens, the developmental process looked to pragmatism theories, research through the design, and appropriate technology to guide the study. This documented study is sectioned into the three phases of the Human-Centered Design. The hear phase analyzed existing literature framing the landscape of farming in South Africa; small-scale farming, in particular, concluding in the possible areas of problem mitigation. It then moved onto the Create stage, where the insights gained from the Hear chapter were implemented through extensive interviews and observations through inputs and participation from urban farmers to understand deeper problems that might be overlooked through a process of secondary research. This section also narrates the design. iv The final phase is the Deliver phase which tackles the installation and review of the kit by farmers and documents the various iterative stages of the design process after initial feedback. The final solution was delivered in kit format, and further design refinements have been recommended for future research.
In research literature, the terms “small-scale-agriculture” and “smallholder-agriculture” (farming) cannot be clearly distinguished and are frequently used synonymously. Taking terminology of both versions, we examine relationships between textual and bibliographic elements, identify clusters of studies and research accents, as well as developments in time. Using information science methods (big data, bibliometrics/scientometrics, visualization program Vosviewer) in the citation database Scopus, we design Boolean search statement/query (emphasis on proximity operators), analyse terms in titles and abstracts of articles, evaluate author networks (countries, co-authorship), keywords, and links between journals. Authors from developed and developing countries collaborate widely, with the US having the most co-authored articles, Germany having the most diverse current network, and Kenya being the strongest contributor among developing countries. Most articles are published by authors from Africa. There are also two smaller clusters representing Asia and the Americas. Three clusters of research priorities are evident: 1) crop production (current focus: crop yield), 2) livestock production (current focus: diseases), and 3) environmental issues, vulnerability to climate change, sustainability, and socio-economic themes. Future trends (hot topics and research fronts) will increasingly focus on adaptation strategies, food security, gender (women), or human health (at the time of submission, there were already dozens of papers on Covid 19 and smallholder farmers). Many topics that used to be most covered by Agricultural and Biological Sciences (Scopus Subject Area) are now increasingly covered in Social Sciences journals, becoming a complex research field on its own, which should translate into support and funding for such studies.
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The global land resource is increasingly under pressure due to both anthropogenic and natural factors such as unsustainable land management practices and climate change, respectively. Land degradation and climate change are among the major global threats to the resilience of agro-ecosystems and stability of food production systems. Small-scale resource-constrained farmers, who account for the majority of farmers across the world, are the hardest hit due to the scale of their operations, operating environment, and circumstances. Despite these global challenges, small-scale farmers have continued to adjust their farming systems to withstand the vagaries of climate change, while at the same time aiming to achieve land degradation neutrality. This chapter sought to evaluate the role played by small-scale farmers in soil and water conservation management in attempt to address land degradation and climate change. Further, the chapter investigated key characteristics and circumstances of small-scale farmers as well as their constraints, strengths, and opportunities. The chapter argues that farmers' indigenous knowledge system has been and continues to be a key strength and offers an opportunity for which more specialized scientific and agricultural extension support can build upon in developing lasting solutions to climate change and soil and water conservation management.
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BACKGROUND: Small scale commercial farming has been targeted to be one of the avenues for local economic development. However, there is little information to clearly identify who these farmers are which creates a daunting task in terms of managerial processes PURPOSE OF STUDY: Least is known regarding who small scale commercial farmers are which makes it difficult to utilize them to enhance economic development. The purpose of the study was to assess how small-scale commercial farming can enhance LED. The paper attempts to characterize small scale commercial farmers and identify their role in Local economic development in relation to the rural economy and assess the role of small-scale commercial farming towards improving local economic development in the rural areas DESIGN/METHODOLOGY/APPROACH: A survey was conducted, and a multiple-stage sampling technique was used to select 217 small-scale commercial farmers. Quantitative data were collected using self-completion structured questionnaires from 217 small-scale commercial farmers in Vhembe District of Limpopo. IBM SPSS version 24 was used for data analysis and descriptive statistics such as frequencies and percentiles were used in this regard RESULTS/FINDINGS: The computed results revealed that land ownership, size and market motives are critical variables to define small-scale commercial farming. At most 56% produce on community land, and 34% are on freehold. Subsequently, 88% of the respondents rely on mixed agriculture as the primary source of income and are producing on an average land size of 8 hectares per farm. The findings further revealed that farmers sell at most 88% of their produce at local markets and 12% to national markets RECOMMENDATIONS: The study recommends that more agri-business training and financial support should be given to small-scale commercial farmers to address issues of regional economic development MANAGERIAL IMPLICATION: This article demonstrated how small-scale commercial farming characterisation could assist in farming managerial processes such as establishing a typology of practical activities JEL CLASSIFICATION: Q12
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Enormous Literature indicates that agriculture remains a source of livelihood for about 86% of rural people and generates job opportunities for approximately 1.3 billion small-scale farmers and landless workers. Over the past couple of years, the South African government has been offering varied support to households that are engaged in small-scale farming to improve their livelihoods, income and food security. Although the various rounds of the General Households Survey (GHS) gathered information on the type of agricultural support received by the farmers about their food production, agricultural income and food security status, there is still limited pragmatic evidence on the extent to which programme is yielding the intended results. The main aim of the study was to use GHS data spanning the period 2013 to 2016 to assess how government agricultural development support influences the livelihoods of small-scale farmers in South Africa. Using both descriptive analyses with Propensity Score Matching (PSM) and Logistics estimations, the result of the study indicates that the proportion of households who have access to the agricultural development support have decreased marginally by two percent from 16% in 2013 to 14% in 2016. The study also reveals that agriculture development assistance given by the South African government is effective in reducing food insecurity, improving agricultural production and income of the beneficiary small-scale farmers. Following the observed marked gender, racial and geographical differences in households’ access to the agricultural development support, the Ministry of Agriculture and its allied ministries and departments responsible for the implementation of the agricultural development support programmes must streamline policies to account for the lack of support to farmers in general. Addressing such differences is necessary to ensure that the programme achieves its intended overall objectives.
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Decolonisation should include not only political independence, but also the return of factors of production to the formerly colonised people so that they can use them to participate meaningfully in the economy, facilitating their economic emancipation from former colonial rulers. This not only involves putting the factors of production back into the hands of the colonised but also empowering them to generate wealth. Hence, the re-balancing of the agricultural landscape to actively include small-scale agriculture is part of the decolonisation process. Returning viability and dignity to small-scale farming entails reconnecting people to the land. Therefore, African investments in agriculture need to be focused on small-scale farming so that income inequality and poverty can be alleviated. The paper proposes that the promotion of small-scale agriculture change achieves both the objectives of reversing the impact of colonialism and restoring dignity to Black farming, as well as providing quality employment within local communities. The paper does not suggest that every farm must be small-scale, but that every small-scale farm be given an equal opportunity to produce and contribute to the economy as these farms can provide business opportunities for marginalised groups, namely the youth and women. Hence, the question remains-Where does one acquire the resources and expertise to kick-start the recalibrating of agricultural production on a small-scale? The answer lies in a mixture of finance and business skills from firms through Corporate Social Investment that creates partnerships, both public and private, that sow the seeds of small-scale success.
The substitution of capital goods, including new technology, for land and labour has played an important role and has influenced the structure of Sout African agriculture. Farm labour-related trends in the summer rainfall grain-producing area of South Africa are considered. The amount of labour used, the remuneration of labour, the substitution of capital for labour and productivity trends are analyzed. Growth rates were obtained by fitting exponential functions with time as independent variable. The decline in the number of farm employees per 1000 hectares under cultivation since 1970 probably resulted from mechanization and thus capital- labour substitution in maize production, especially in harvesting. Tax concessions on new capital improvements, the subsidization of agriculture in general and the increasing rate of urbanization contributed to this trend. The scarcity of capital relative to unskilled labour, which has been reinforced by policy measures favouring capital intensity (capital formation has increased by 4.0% per annum between 1950 and 1980, compared with an increase of 0. 71% per annum in the number of farm employees in the same period); this implies that corrective policy changes are required to improve the present distorted situation. This will enable the commercial agricultural sector of South Africa to play a more meaningful role in the socio-economic development of the whole subcontinent.
Effects of farmer support programmes (FSPs) of the Development Bank of Southern Africa on consumption and investment are determined by utilising cross‐sectional survey data from the Mashamba and Khakhu areas of the Venda homeland in South Africa. Income elasticities indicate that the demand for goods (staple food) produced by households increases less than the demand for purchased goods. A discriminant analysis of surplus versus deficit producers indicates that surplus production is associated with farmers who participate in the FSP (ie farmers using chemical fertilizers and purchasing inputs on credit). The existence of soil erosion, availability of ploughing services, expenditure on transport education, medical and personal items, and the existence of a savings account also play important roles in explaining the difference in production performance between surplus and deficit food‐producing households.
This article considers effects of price on food security and the food equation in the developing areas of South Africa. Firstly, the food (or hunger) equation is examined in more detail. Secondly, thefood price dilemma is analysed using empirical data obtained elsewhere in sub‐Saharan Africa. Thirdly, the situation in the developing areas of South Africa is examined. Empirical evidence in sub‐Saharan and Southern Africa accentuates the skewness and concentration in the market participation profile of rural households with respect to especially staples. Supply response to higher prices in these areas is also limited. These findings place the food price dilemma on centre stage in Southern Africa.
This chapter inquires into the efficiency and equity consequences of rental and sales markets for agricultural land in the developing world. Most of the work on the relationship between farm size and productivity strongly suggests that farms that rely mostly on family labor have higher productivity levels than large farms operated primarily with hired labor. An examination of the historical evolution of land rights shows the reason for the deviations: rights over land and the concentration of ownership observed in most developing countries at the end of World War II are outgrowths of power relationships. The chapter describes the variety of land relations and their consequences for the efficiency of agricultural production. The chapter also we examines how these power relations emerged and what legal means enabled relatively few landowners to accumulate and hold on to large landholdings. The methodological epilogue examines how various strands of economic theory have contributed, or failed to contribute, to the explanation of variations in policies, distortions and land relations over space and time.