African Journal of
Agricultural Research

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Agric. Res.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1991-637X
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJAR
  • Start Year: 2006
  • Published Articles: 6576


Understanding the small-scale agricultural sector as a precondition for promoting rural development in South Africa

Tshuma, M. C.
  • Tshuma, M. C.
  • Rural Appropriate Technology Unit (RATU). Thornhill Road. P.O. Box 225, Mthatha, 5099, South Africa.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 02 August 2012
  •  Accepted: 16 June 2014
  •  Published: 29 July 2014


Economic development in South Africa (SA) has been an issue that has been on top of the government’s agenda for many years now. Whilst SA as a nation is well endowed in terms of natural resources, the skewed distribution of these resources has left rural economies at a great disadvantage when compared to the urban ones. Questions have thus been asked about how best to address this imbalance and boost rural economies so that every citizen enjoys an adequate share of the nation’s resources. One common suggestion for achieving this goal has been that of promoting smallholder agriculture, especially since this form of farming is dominant in the country’s rural areas where at least 70% of the country’s poorest households dwell. The basis for such an argument has been that smallholder agriculture can stimulate rural development as it is labour-intensive which in turn translates to high employment opportunities being created. The sector also dominates in the deepest corners of the nation where poverty is rife and their survival means enough food could be produced to sustain these households. A healthy smallholder sector has also been proven to facilitate backward and forward linkages between various industries with income flowing both ways. Nevertheless, the success of the smallholder sector is dependent on the removal of certain barriers that have, in some cases, forced some farmers to seek alternative livelihood strategies other than farming. This paper therefore seeks to discuss the characteristics of smallholder agriculture which are crucial to understand prior to using the sector to develop rural SA. It also brings to light some of the factors that have limited the growth of this sector and concludes by recommending a few solutions that could help eliminate or at least reduce the impact of these barriers.


Keys words: Smallholder farmers, poverty alleviation, economic development, rural income, employment creation.