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The contribution of subsistence farming to food security in South Africa


  • Baiphethi, Mompati N.
  • Jacobs, Peter T.


Poor households access their food from the market, subsistence production and transfers from public programmes or other households. In the past rural households produced most of their own food, but recent studies have shown an increase in dependence on market purchases by both urban and rural households, in some cases reaching 90% of the food supplies. Food expenditures can account for as much as 60–80% of total household income for low-income households in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Subsistence/smallholder agriculture can play an important role in reducing the vulnerability of rural and urban food-insecure households, improving livelihoods, and helping to mitigate high food price inflation. There is a need to significantly increase the productivity of subsistence/smallholder agriculture and ensure long-term food security. This can be achieved by encouraging farmers to pursue sustainable intensification of production through the use of improved inputs. This will require a dramatic increase in the use of fertiliser, organic inputs and conservation investments, combined with the development of well-functioning input and output markets to help farmers acquire and use improved inputs, market their (surplus) output and reduce transaction costs and risks. Increased productivity will reduce pressure on marginal lands, as the intensification of cultivated land will reduce pressure to crop fragile marginal lands. There is a need to determine methods of identifying cost-effective ways to improve access to inputs by, among other things, improving delivery, and assisting farmers to earn cash to purchase inputs and invest in infrastructure, thereby improving food security.

Suggested Citation

  • Baiphethi, Mompati N. & Jacobs, Peter T., 2009. "The contribution of subsistence farming to food security in South Africa," Agrekon, Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa (AEASA), vol. 48(4), December.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:agreko:58216

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    Cited by:

    1. Mohajan, Haradhan, 2016. "Amartya Sen’s Peasant Economies: A Review with Examples," MPRA Paper 82937, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 25 Jan 2016.
    2. Jolejole-Foreman, Maria Christina & Olofin, Ibironke & Fawzi, Wafaie & Fink, Gunther, 2016. "Associations between Food Scarcity during Pregnancy and Children’s Survival and Linear Growth in Zambia," 2016 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, 2016, Boston, Massachusetts 235111, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    3. S. Sharaunga & M. Mudhara, 2016. "The impact of improved ‘water-use security’ on women’s reliance on agricultural incomes in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa," Food Security: The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food, Springer;The International Society for Plant Pathology, vol. 8(6), pages 1039-1052, December.
    4. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:4:p:1078-:d:139603 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Sheona Shackleton & Marty Luckert, 2015. "Changing Livelihoods and Landscapes in the Rural Eastern Cape, South Africa: Past Influences and Future Trajectories," Land, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(4), pages 1-30, November.
    6. Ambagna, Jean Joël & Kane, Gilles Quentin & Oyekale Abayomi, Samuel, 2012. "Subsistence Farming and Food Security in Cameroon: A Macroeconomic Approach," MPRA Paper 62756, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2012.
    7. 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.
    8. Chisasa, Joseph, 0. "Agriculture – A Corporate Finance Perspective," Journal of Agribusiness and Rural Development, University of Life Sciences, Poznan, Poland, issue 1.
    9. Ward, Catherine D. & Shackleton, Charlie M., 2016. "Natural Resource Use, Incomes, and Poverty Along the Rural–Urban Continuum of Two Medium-Sized, South African Towns," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 80-93.
    10. Majiwa, Eucabeth Bosibori Opande & Lee, Boon & Wilson, Clevo, 2015. "Multi-lateral multi-output measurement of productivity: the case of African agriculture," 2015 Conference, August 9-14, 2015, Milan, Italy 212769, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    11. Chisasa, Joseph, 0. "Sources Of Growth In South African Sources Of Growth In South African Agriculture – A Corporate Finance Perspective," Journal of Agribusiness and Rural Development, University of Life Sciences, Poznan, Poland, issue 4.


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