Employment and quality of life of participants in the land redistribution programme in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: a comparison of different models

  • Richard Devey

Student thesis: Phd


Rural South Africa shows high levels poverty, inequality and unemployment and land reform is one strategy adopted to address these problems. However, the land reform programme appears to have limited success in meeting the objectives of poverty reduction, reducing inequality and creating employment. The main research question is 'How has the implementation of market-based land reform (MBLR), within the three delivery models, contributed to agrarian change in South Africa?' Sources of data used to answer this question include the 2005 Department of Land Affairs Quality of Life Survey and case studies of contract farming land reform projects in the KwaZulu-Natal sugarcane sector.Analysis of the survey demonstrates land reform has been implemented in a haphazard manner. A number of redistribution projects achieve some degree of commercial success but household participation in projects is generally low. However, beneficiary households do use project land for private purposes so productive activity, albeit not of a commercial nature, is evident. Beneficiary households rely on an array of livelihoods to survive, of which employment on a land reform project is the least prevalent. Satisfaction with land reform is not strongly correlated with profit or employment on a project suggesting owning land holds more value than adopting its previous productive process. Analysis of the contract farming case studies provides deeper insight into the neoliberal land reform model. While productivity gains are evident, ownership of the process of production is uneven and not in favour of the beneficiary. A close relationship between state and industry is critical for land reform to succeed. The capital-intensive nature of the industry and the share of profit across a greater number of owners indicate it would be difficult to scale up this model. MBLR appears to have little impact on existing economic and social structures which reproduce inequality.
Date of Award31 Dec 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester


  • land reform
  • South Africa

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