Emerging from Below? Understanding the Livelihood Trajectories of Smallholder Livestock Farmers in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa | Land Portal

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Date of publication: 
February 2021
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© 2021 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article.

In the context of current agrarian reform efforts in South Africa, this paper analyses the livelihood trajectories of ‘emergent’ farmers in Eastern Cape Province. We apply a rural livelihoods framework to 60 emergent cattle farmers to understand the different capitals they have drawn upon in transitioning to their current class positions and associated vulnerability. The analysis shows that, for the majority of farmers, no real ‘transition’ from subsistence farming has occurred. However, they draw limited resilience from increased livestock holdings, continued reliance on social grants and connections with communal villages. A transition into small-scale commercial farming is apparent for a small number of farmers through the deployment of financial, human and social capitals. However, in following these trajectories, most of these farmers have been made more vulnerable to shocks and stresses than previously. We suggest that key to mitigating this vulnerability will be access to low-risk financial capital, more targeted support, and strategies to support farmers that might not transition from subsistence production.

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

Gwiriri, Lovemore C.
Bennett, James
Mapiye, Cletos
Burbi, Sara


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