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The Political Economy of Land and Agrarian Reform in Southern AfricaAgro-Food Systems

This module delivers an understanding of the conditions that give rise to land and agrarian reforms in Southern Africa, the theoretical perspectives that have shaped reform policies and the practical outcomes of such reforms. It analyses land reform policies in South Africa, exploring processes of land redistribution and land restitution, as well as tenure reforms in the communal areas and on commercial farms. It also covers agricultural deregulation and restructuring.

The module takes a regional view, including brief case studies of reform policies in other countries (usually Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe), while noting recent trends towards large-scale land acquisitions (usually of customary or public lands) by investors, a process which appears to be in conflict with securing more broad-based land rights.

By the end of the module, students should have gained a broad understanding of the historical and contemporary debates about the significance of the agrarian question in Southern Africa, together with knowledge of approaches to and outcomes of reform in South Africa and at least one other Southern African country. In relation to concepts and theories, the course focuses on the key concepts of peasant farming, agrarian structure, the class dynamics of agrarian change, agro-food regimes, property rights and economic viability, which often inform policy debates on land and agrarian reform. Readings and discussion will include debates in the international, African and South African contexts.

The objectives of this module are:

  • to introduce students to historical and contemporary debates around land reform and agrarian change in Southern Africa;
  • to enable students to develop a thorough grasp of the links between agricultural development, rural livelihoods and land reform in the Southern African context;
  • to provide students with an understanding of key concepts and debates in relation to notions of agrarian structure and the class dynamics of agrarian change;
  • to assist students to compare and contrast the range of approaches to land reform across several African countries;
  • to assist students to have a thorough grasp of land reform policies in at least two Southern African countries;
  • to assist students to develop an in-depth understanding of land and agrarian reform in South Africa since 1994; and
  • to enable students to participate in debates around the possible future direction of land reform in Southern Africa.