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Agriculture and poverty: Farming for food or farming for money?


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  • Pauw, Kalie


The dualistic nature of the South African economy manifests itself to a large extent in the agricultural sector, where ownership and access to land was previously reserved and is still mainly controlled by white farmers. This has contributed to the huge disparities in the income levels of black and white agricultural households. In this paper two South African household surveys are used to analyse agricultural inequality using various decomposition techniques. It is found that inequalities within agriculture are higher and more pronounced along racial lines than inequalities among non-agricultural households. Agricultural inequalities also differ structurally from those in the rest of society and are explained largely by differences in the ownership of income-generating assets, and less so by racial wage inequalities. Furthermore, an analysis of agricultural poverty reveals extremely high poverty rates and meagre incomes among black subsistence and small-scale farmer households. These results have important implications for the type of transformation required in the South African agricultural sector, adding weight to the notion that commercialisation is crucial if agriculture is to contribute meaningfully to poverty reduction among the rural black community.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa (AEASA) in its journal Agrekon.

Volume (Year): 46 (2007)
Issue (Month): 2 (June)

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Handle: RePEc:ags:agreko:10122

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Keywords: Agricultural sector; poverty; inequality; household income sources; Food Security and Poverty;


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  1. Pauw, Kalie, 2005. "A Profile of the Free State Province: Demographics, Poverty, Inequality and Unemployment," Background Paper Series 15616, PROVIDE Project.
  2. Gilimani, Benedict Mandlenkosi, 2006. "The Economic Contribution of Home Production for Home Consumption in South African Agriculture," Background Paper Series 58066, PROVIDE Project.
  3. Pauw, Kalie, 2005. "Creating a 2000 IES-LFS Database in Stata," Technical Paper Series 15628, PROVIDE Project.
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Cited by:
  1. Louw Pienaar & Dieter von Fintel, 2013. "Hunger in the former apartheid homelands: Determinants of converging food security 100 years after the 1913 Land Act," Working Papers 26/2013, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  2. Letty, Brigid & Shezi, Zanele & Mudhara, Maxwell, 2012. "An exploration of agricultural grassroots innovation in South Africa and implications for innovation indicator development," MERIT Working Papers 023, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).


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