Within the ambit of the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa, government is leading a process to define a Second Economy Strategy. One of the opportunities that has been identified is the agricultural sector, in particular fostering a larger number of smallholder agriculturalists. The study seeks to identify the key elements of an implementable programme to support the smallholder sector. The core of the exercise entailed identifying successful South African smallholders active in different settings, and examining the factors that contribute to their success, whether these are personal, contextual, institutional, etc. Although the study was not designed as an evaluation of interventions as such, in the process of conducting the smallholder case studies (and in combination with an extensive literature review), the efficacy and relevance of different intervention and support strategies also came into focus.
For purposes of the study, we assumed a broad definition of agricultural smallholders, including those who operate independently, those who farm in groups, those for whom farming is mainly for subsistence purposes and those whose orientation is mainly or purely commercial. (We therefore employ the flawed but useful distinction between ‘subsistence’ and ‘commercial’ smallholders.)
Ultimately, we conceptualise ‘supporting the smallholder sector’ as consisting of four distinct strands, namely the prospects and measures for:
- improving the performance of subsistenceoriented smallholders;
- encouraging/enabling smallholders who are currently subsistence-oriented to benefit from a more commercial orientation;
- improving the performance of commercially oriented smallholders; and
- increasing the participation in smallholder agriculture among those (especially rural dwellers) who do not practise agriculture.