Land and Sustainable Development in Africa

Land and Sustainable Development in Africa



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781842779132
Publisher: Zed Books
Publication date: 03/18/2008
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.43(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

Sam Moyo is the Executive Director of the African Institute for Agrarian Studies, Harare, Zimbabwe. Kojo Amanor is Associate at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana.

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Land and Sustainable Development in Africa

By Kojo Sebastian Amanor, Sam Moyo

Zed Books Ltd

Copyright © 2008 Kojo Sebastian Amanor and Sam Moyo
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84277-913-2


Land and Sustainable Development in South Africa

Wellington Didibhuku Thwala and Misabeni Khosa

Desperations and forced removal of African people under colonialism and apartheid resulted not only in the physical separation of people along racial lines, but also in extreme land shortages, insecure land rights and poverty for the majority of the black population. In South Africa, 87 per cent (85.5 million ha) of the land lies in the hands of 60,000 white farmers who make up only 5 per cent of the white population. Land became a medium through which the relations of exploitation and domination on the one side, and power and powerlessness on the other, were expressed. Thus, any discourse on sustainable development must consider the land question, since land is at the centre of a number of complex and inter-related factors deriving from social, political, economic and environmental factors of development. To this end, there is now growing recognition of the centrality of land in the sustainable development process in South Africa and the southern Africa region as witnessed by a number of regional initiatives and meetings. Moyo (2007b: 60) argues that the main question facing southern Africa is that little progress has been achieved in the implementation of land reform. The major challenge is to redress colonially derived and post-independence unequal land ownership, discriminatory land use regulations and insecure land tenure systems which marginalise the majority of rural and urban poor populations. The march towards sustainable development in South Africa includes many facets of people's livelihoods and requires multi-dimensional solutions that adopt a holistic framework, which is sensitive to the multiple linkages and interactions between environmental and social issues.

Since 1994, land reform has been implemented under three main components: land redistribution, restitution of land rights and tenure reform. These programmes have yet to make a significant impact on the highly unequal distribution of land or to contribute towards the livelihood opportunities of the majority rural population (Thwala, 2003). Both redistribution and restitution programs have suffered from the World Bank's model of market-assisted land reform and cumbersome and ineffective bureaucratic processes. Tenure reform has failed to address the chaotic system of land administration in the communal areas of the former homelands, to prevent eviction of long-term tenants on white-owned farms, or to halt the encroachment of private business interests onto communal property resources (Tilley, 2002). This chapter provides an overview of the land question in South Africa and explores the relationship between land reform and sustainable development.

Sustainable Development, Environment and Land Reform

The standard definition of environmental sustainability comes from the Brundtland Report: 'Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs' (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). There are two main features in this definition: the focus on needs, particularly the needs of the poor, and the focus on the limits beyond which the environment cannot be used to meet needs (Smith, 1992). Sustainable development implies self-reliant and cost-effective development, facilitating access to health, shelter, clean water and food. Finally, it implies the need for people-centred initiatives (Tolba, 1987). Tolba (1987) further argued that sustainable development must help the poorest; otherwise, they are left with no option but to destroy the environment.

Small farm economies are often important to sustainable development. Whereas large, industrial-style farms impose a scorched-earth mentality on resource management – no trees, no wildlife, endless monocultures – small farmers can be very effective stewards of natural resources and the soil. To begin with, small farmers utilise a broad array of resources and have a vested interest in their sustainability. At the same time, their farming systems are diverse, incorporating and preserving significant functional biodiversity within the farm. By preserving biodiversity, open space and trees, and by reducing land degradation, small farms provide valuable ecosystem services to the larger society.

In the United States, small farmers devote 17 per cent of their area to woodlands, compared to only 5 per cent on large farms. Small farms maintain nearly twice as much of their land in 'soil improving uses', including cover crops and green manures (D'Souza and Ikerd, 1996). In the Third World, peasant farmers show tremendous ability to prevent and even reverse land degradation, including soil erosion (Templeton and Scherr, 1999). They can and/or do provide important services to society at large, including sustainable management of critical watersheds that preserve hydrological resources, and the in situ conservation and dynamic development and management of the basic crop and livestock genetic resources upon which the future food security of humanity depends.

Compared to the ecological wasteland of modern export plantation, the small farm landscape contains a myriad of biodiversity. The forested areas from which wild foods and leaf litter are extracted, the woodlot, the farm itself with intercropping, agroforestry, large and small livestock, the fish pond, the backyard garden, all allow for the preservation of hundreds if not thousands of wild and cultivated species. Simultaneously, the commitment of family members to maintaining soil fertility on the family farm means an active interest in long-term sustainability not found on large farms owned by absentee investors. If we are truly concerned about rural ecosystems, then the preservation and promotion of small, family farm agriculture is a crucial step that must be taken to promote sustainable development in South Africa.

The Origins of the Land Question in South Africa

Since the first Dutch settlers arrived in the Cape in 1652 through to English imperial rule in the nineteenth century, expropriation and dispossession of land belonging to the indigenous population marked colonialism in South Africa. This harsh pattern of dispossession accompanied the movement of white settlers into the African interior, where their encounters with local polities were often marked by violent appropriation of vast tracts of land (Koch et al., 2001). Several historical processes and events – centuries of conquest, dispossessions and forced removals of black people by white governments – have produced the complex and challenging 'land question' which the democratic government is now addressing, albeit slowly.

The passing of the various land-based acts, the Land Acts of 1913 and 1936 and the Group Areas Act of 1950, had far-reaching consequences for the indigenous population. The Land Act of 1913 limited African residential opportunities to the reserves, which accounted for only 13 per cent of the surface land area (Sihlongonyane, 1997: 118). The act further constrained access for Africans, as owners of capital, in the mining, manufacturing and agriculture sectors, and regulated their participation in the economy as labourers. Cities and towns fell outside the defined boundaries for African occupation and ownership. The act attempted to create a migratory labour force of workers and denied support to an economically independent peasantry. The systematic land dispossession in rural areas resulted in the eradication of the African peasantry, but deliberately made no provisions for its complete proletarianisation. This ensured white capital of an endless supply of cheap labour.

In 1948, the National Party government implemented its own brand of land reform, based on 'Grand Apartheid'. The programmes included territorial separation of races, enforcement of 'bastardised' customary law practices in the former homelands, the denial to blacks of land and other rights in white South Africa, the denial of freedom of movement and the procurement of influx control. The result was the stifling of economic development in the reserves and a controlled labour market. These various acts gave legal authority to the existing social relations of exploitation, in terms of extracting surplus value, and in terms of uneven redistribution and domination. In turn, the African population adopted land as the rallying point for political mobilisation against the white minority oppressors. The history of the struggle against oppression and exploitation in South Africa was, therefore, largely the history of the struggle over land.

This history has resulted in one of the most glaring inequitable distributions of land in the world. Three quarters of South Africa's population was reduced to living on 13 per cent of the land, while whites (less than one-fifth of the population) have access to 85 per cent of total land (Sihlongonyane, 1997). This highly skewed pattern continues to characterise South Africa today despite the African National Congress (ANC) government's ambitious land reform programme (Thwala, 2003). Black South Africans thus experienced multiple, interlocking processes of dispossession and discrimination. They were deprived of access to agricultural land across most of the country. While access remained possible in the 'homelands', overcrowding and the structuring of livelihoods around migrant labour to towns and mines meant that there was little prospect of securing a farm holding that could support a viable livelihood. This also undermines the viability of the African agricultural sector, which is characterised by landlessness and dependence upon the migrant labour system, and suffers from poor infrastructure, weak forward and backward agricultural linkages, deteriorating ecological conditions, the marginal nature of the land, poorly developed farming skills, and in some cases a limited interest in farming. There is a genuine danger that the new 'communities' established through land reform will become no more than new 'Bantustans', where people are dumped in settlements with no visible means of supporting themselves (Land and Agricultural Policy Centre, 1997).

Land Reform under the African National Congress

The election of South Africa's first majority government raised expectations that an ANC-led government would effect a fundamental transformation of property rights that would address the history of dispossession, and lay the foundation for the social and economic improvement of the rural and urban poor. These hopes were strengthened by the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) which was committed to redistribute 30 per cent of agricultural land within five years and make land reform 'the central and driving force of a programme of rural development' (ANC, 1994). The coming to power of the first majority government in 1994 appeared to present a historic opportunity to place equitable and pro-poor policies at the centre of the land reform agenda.

The track record of South Africa's land reform programme since 1994 has been rather disappointing (National Land Committee [NLC], 2000/2001). The majority of the 13 million poverty-stricken people continue to be crowded into the former homelands, where rights to land are often unclear or contested, and the system of land administration is in tatters. On private farms, millions of workers, former workers and their families continue to experience tenure insecurity and lack of basic facilities, despite the passing of new laws designed to protect them. In the urban areas, sprawling settlements continue to expand, amidst poverty, crime and a lack of basic services. A crisis, fuelled by falling formal sector employment, the scourge of HIV/AIDS, on-going evictions from farms, and the collapse of agricultural support services in the former homelands, is accelerating rural migration to the cities. Retrenched urban workers track back to the rural areas. The rise in the prices of basic food commodities is causing further impoverishment in the rural areas. The result of all this is a highly diverse pattern of demand for land for a variety of purposes, and the rise of numerous hot spots of acute land hunger in both urban and rural areas. The World Bank's mode of market-based land reform now dominates key parts of the land policy agenda. It is doubtful whether many of the land reform programme's original equity objectives will be met. There is a visible shift in land policy and the emergence of a new strategy of targeting resources at commercial black farmers, which is seen by many to be at the expense of the rural poor (NLC, 2000/2001).

Land redistribution

Land redistribution is the flagship of the land reform programme in South Africa. It is a mechanism for transferring large areas of land from the privileged white minority to the historically oppressed. The White Paper on South African Land Policy of the Department of Land Affairs (1997: 36) states the purpose of the redistribution programme as 'the redistribution of land to landless poor, tenants farm workers and emerging farmers for residential and productive use, to improve their livelihoods and quality of life'. Lahiff (2001) argued that this objective has been largely lost sight of in recent years, as policy has increasingly focused on technical criteria. To date, redistribution has mainly involved the provision of a Settlement/Land Acquisition Grant (SLAG) of R16,000, equal to the basic housing grant provided to qualifying households.

Between 1995 and March 1999, approximately 60,000 households were allocated grants for land acquisition. In total, about 650,000 ha of land was approved for redistribution by March 1999, amounting to less than 1 per cent of the country's commercial land. Most of the projects have involved groups of applicants pooling their grants to buy white-owned farms for commercial agricultural purposes. Less commonly, groups of farm workers have used the grant to purchase equity shares in existing farming enterprises. A separate fund, the grant for the acquisition of land for Municipal Commonage, has also been made available to municipalities wishing to provide communal land for use (usually for grazing) by the urban or rural poor. By the end of 1999, a total of 77 Municipal Commonage Projects were implemented and 75 more were in the pipeline.

The SLAG programme has not only redistributed less land than achieved through private sector purchases, but it has also transferred land of much lower quality (weighted price R902/ha versus R2935/ha) to beneficiaries whose land tenure is still relatively insecure. Throughout the South African literature, there is widespread agreement on the need for some form of tenure reform in the black rural areas (Lahiff, 2001). While many existing tenure systems display a high degree of functionality and legitimacy, serious concerns are raised about the formal legal basis to current practices. These concerns include the ability of marginalised groups, especially women and the very poor, to exercise their land rights, the potential obstacle presented by the current system to agricultural and other forms of development, and the breakdown of law and order around land matters in many areas. Adams et al. (1999a) note that private investment on state land, as part of the government's Spatial Development Initiatives (SDIs), has been delayed for up to two years – in some cases because of uncertainty over land rights. Adams et al. (1999a: 3) comment: 'Throughout the former homelands, agricultural, forestry and eco-tourism projects are on hold because it is not clear who can authorize such development to proceed, or who should benefit'. This outcome is not consistent with government's expectation that land redistribution would promote a highly efficient small-scale farm sector.

Government then decided to introduce the Integrated Programme of Land Redistribution and Agricultural Development (IPLRAD) in 1999 with the aim of transferring 30 per cent of medium and high quality agricultural land to blacks over 15 years, at a possible cost of R16 – 22 billion (Ministry of Agriculture and Land Affairs, 2000). IPLRAD will involve

• redistribution of land for farming for all black citizens regardless of income, and not for settlement;

• a minimum own contribution of R5,000, which could be in kind, or in the form of labour for a minimum grant of R20,000 or a maximum grant of R100,000 which requires R400,000 own contribution;

• the provision of support including compulsory training and project environmental assessment by the National Development Agency;

• disposal of 669,000 ha of state agricultural land.


Excerpted from Land and Sustainable Development in Africa by Kojo Sebastian Amanor, Sam Moyo. Copyright © 2008 Kojo Sebastian Amanor and Sam Moyo. Excerpted by permission of Zed Books Ltd.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Land and Sustainable Development Issues in Africa - Kojo Sebastian Amanor
1. Land and Sustainable Development in Africa - Wellington Didibhuka Thwala and Misabeni Khosa
2. Interrogating Sustainable Development and Resource Control in Zimbabwe - Sam Moyo and Prosper B. Matondi
3. Land, Norms and Sustainable Development in Africa - Fidelis Edge Kanyongolo
4. Sustaining the Land Question in Kenya: A History of Greed and Grievances - Karuti Kanyinga, Odenda Lumumba and Kojo S. Amanor
5. Sustainable Development: Corporate Accumulation and Community Expropriation: Law and Natural Resources in West Africa - Kojo Sebastian Amanor
6. Sustainable Development, Ecotourism, National Minorities and Land in Botswana - Mpho G. Molomo
Conclusion: Transforming Sustainable Development

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