The role of agriculture in poverty reduction: South Africa

Type Report
Title The role of agriculture in poverty reduction: South Africa
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2011
The post-1994 period in the South African economy is characterised, perhaps most powerfully, by
the fact that the economy recorded one of its longest periods of positive economic growth in the
country’s history.  Indeed for the period 1994 to 2008 (inclusive of the early recession in 2008) South
Africa’s average annual growth in GDP in 2000 prices stood at 3.57% per annum.  One of the more
vexing issues within the economic policy terrain in post-apartheid South Africa though, has been the
impact of this consistently positive growth performance on social welfare.  In particular, there has
been a rich debate within South Africa around the impact of economic growth on poverty in the
post-1994 era.
Since 1994, wide-spread agricultural policy reforms have been introduced, with most of these aimed
at improving the efficiency of the sector as well as increasing participation by emerging farmers in
the sector.    The agriculture, fishing and forestry industry’s contribution to GDP has remained
relatively stable at less than 3 percent in the post-apartheid period.  Since 2001, employment in the
sector has, however, declined by almost 50 percent.    In addition, evidence suggests that farm
workers remain some of the most vulnerable workers in the economy.   
This paper has two main objectives.  The first is to provide an overview of the shifts in income and
non-income poverty in the post-apartheid period. The second objective is to provide a snapshot of
the most important agricultural policies and support measures introduced since 1994.  The lack of
data, however, makes it impossible to review the impact of these policies, thus also making it
impossible to quantify any possible contribution to poverty reduction these interventions might
have had over the period.  
The paper is organised as follows. Section two provides an overview of changes in income poverty
followed by a discussion of the shifts in non-income poverty as measured by changes to a range of
public services and one private asset.  A very short overview of the performance of the sector since
1994 is provided in Section three.  Section four summarises the key agricultural policy reforms and
interventions since 1994

Related studies