Land reform remains a key element in efforts to redress South Africa’s legacy of historic injustice, but is an arena of intense debate about the impact of farming scale on agricultural productivity and rural incomes.
This research will undertake a study of sugar farms in Mpumalanga province, South Africa, where, following land reform, black-owned agriculture operates on both small- and large-scale production units. The research will collect and analyse new data using farm surveys and interviews with farm owners and employees, as well as analysing existing data.
The three-year project will use a range of criteria of ‘farm viability’ to assess: the productivity of land, water, labour and capital at different farm scales; the impact of income from different scales of farming on livelihoods and wellbeing among rural communities; and the effects of sugar farming on political and institutional relations within rural communities, particularly with respect to conflict and cohesion over natural resource use. While the main policy lessons from this research will focus on the South African land and agriculture context, the research will also seek to identify lessons for policy on foreign financial investment in farmland in sub-Saharan Africa.