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Support for smallholder farmers in South Africa: Challenges of scale and strategy


  • Michael Aliber
  • Ruth Hall


The South African Government aims to expand the smallholder sector as part of its broader job creation strategy. However, research shows that government attempts to support smallholder farmers have generally been costly and ineffective. Using secondary data and case study evidence, this study investigated the problems of supporting this sector. One finding is that while budgetary allocations to the sector have increased impressively over the last decade and a half, the distribution and use of these resources are such that few farmers benefit and the overall impact is small. A strategic choice has to be made between two strategies: supporting a few selected farmers to become large-scale commercial farmers (‘accumulation for the few’), or supporting a large number and helping them to increase and diversify their produce so as to become sustainable commercial smallholders (‘accumulation from below’). Past experience and a new national initiative favour the latter, using geographically targeted generic support services.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Aliber & Ruth Hall, 2012. "Support for smallholder farmers in South Africa: Challenges of scale and strategy," Development Southern Africa, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(4), pages 548-562, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:deveza:v:29:y:2012:i:4:p:548-562
    DOI: 10.1080/0376835X.2012.715441

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    Cited by:

    1. Sinyolo, Sikhulumile & Mudhara, Maxwell & Wale, Edilegnaw, 2016. "To what extent does dependence on social grants affect smallholder farmers’ incentives to farm? Evidence from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa," African Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, African Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 11(2), June.
    2. Kyle, Jordan & Resnick, Danielle, 2016. "Nepal’s 2072 federal constitution: Implications for the governance of the agricultural sector," IFPRI discussion papers 1589, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    3. Pienaar, Louw & Traub, Lulama, 2015. "Understanding the smallholder farmer in South Africa: Towards a sustainable livelihoods classification," 2015 Conference, August 9-14, 2015, Milan, Italy 212633, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    4. repec:bla:devpol:v:35:y:2017:i::p:o246-o269 is not listed on IDEAS

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