Meeting food security needs in very poor households in the Eastern Cape: the role of own agricultural production
Small-scale agriculture evokes strong views in terms of both its current and potential roles in rural development. We examine how many (or few) Black households in rural areas that are identified as ‘food poor’ in terms of their income levels are able to meet their basic food needs – and the role of household agricultural production. We find that although rural households engaged in some form of farming are more likely to be very poor in terms of their incomes, they actually experience hunger less frequently than non-farming households.
Growing agriculture can reduce poverty, create economic opportunities in rural and peri-urban areas, and boost employment, particularly for semi- and unskilled workers. We review several successful joint ventures across South Africa which comprise a range of partnerships between smallholders, commercial farmers, agribusinesses, industry associations and government. Many of these partnerships have generated significant returns and transformational benefits. Well-designed joint ventures can complement existing government initiatives to drive more rapid agrarian transformation and increase production.
In developing countries, agricultural growth is generally employment intensive and pro-poor but this sector in South Africa has been subject to a drastic decline in tariffs, pricing, infrastructure and other forms of support. This has not been compensated for by alternative measures such as expenditure aimed at facilitating small-scale agriculture and effective land reform. The result has been poor economic performance and rapidly declining employment in commercial agriculture with little sign of revival in the small-scale sector.
Average wages in agriculture have risen substantially in all provinces since the introduction of minimum wages in 2003 - the gap between the actual and the minimum wage has declined significantly. Compliance has been highest in the Western Cape and Gauteng, where average agricultural wages were close to or above the minimum wage even before it was introduced and wages have continued to rise thereafter. Although enforcement appears to have had a limited impact due in part to limited penalties, more effective inspection would be an important way to improve compliance.