Strategies for Increasing Black Commercial Farming in South Africa

By E.G. Nadeau, Ph.D. and Mpumelelo Ncwadi, M.B.A.
September 7, 2017

Access to farmland and commercial agricultural markets has not improved significantly for black farmers in South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994. Based on site visits and interviews, primarily conducted in Eastern Cape Province, and on national-level documentary research, this
report analyzes the South African government’s attempts at land reform and presents approaches that show potential for future success.

The authors carried out field research in Eastern Cape Province in January and February 2017, and conducted interviews and documentary research over the next several months.

    Their findings are dramatic:

  • Over the last 23 years, the pace of land reform in South African has been glacially slow. The ANC government set a goal of transferring 30 percent of white commercial farmland to black ownership by 1999. As of 2016, less than 7 percent of white-owned farmland had been transferred.
  • With few exceptions, attempts to replace large white family farms with large black communal farms have failed miserably.
  • At the same time, the promotion of black smallholder commercial farming, which has been very successful in many African countries, has received little attention from the South African government.
  • As of 2017, the national government still does not appear to have developed a workable strategy for increasing the number and viability of black commercial farms.

The authors recommend three models for increasing successful black commercial farming in South Africa:

  1. Medium- and large-scale black family farms have had limited commercial success to date, but show promise for the future, especially if the farmers are members of multi-purpose cooperatives.
  2. Smallholder black commercial farms have very good potential if they receive coordinated assistance through co-ops or similar sources of support.
  3. Small-scale livestock owners also show high potential for commercial success if they participate in co-ops or other coordinated programs involving rotational grazing, access to credit, breeding support, and marketing assistance.

The authors also recommend a model for farmland rehabilitation and youth job creation to reduce the amount of disused farmland and pastureland, which has been overrun by invasive plants and scarred by erosion, and to reduce exorbitantly high rural youth unemployment rates.

# # #
To read a copy of the full report, click here.