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Supporting land reform in South Africa: Participatory planning experience in the Northern Cape Province

Alastair Bradstock, FARM-Africa

July 2005

SARPN acknowledges FARM-Africa as the source of this document.
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Executive summary

Following the historic elections in 1994, the South African Government embarked on an ambitious land reform programme, aiming to have 30 per cent of South Africa’s agricultural land in black ownership by 2015. The programme has three elements.

  • Restitution – restoring land to people who were displaced as a result of discriminatory land legislation.
  • Tenure reform – addressing the causes of insecurity of tenure.
  • Redistribution – transferring land from white to black ownership.

Many of those who receive land through the programme have limited experience of managing natural resources, so they need support in developing knowledge and skills to use their land effectively. In particular, land reform groups need help in drawing up a realistic plan to develop their farms which is acceptable to all their members.

FARM-Africa has been supporting the land reform programme since 1995. It started work then with the Riemvasmaak community (situated to the west of Upington), in close collaboration with the Northern Cape Provincial Departments of Agriculture and Land Affairs.Thereafter, FARM-Africa was asked to work with more land reform groups. Since 2002 it has been piloting the new participatory planning method which it has developed.This approach enables groups to work jointly through a sequence of steps in order to develop and implement a land management plan.

The participatory planning method steps can be summarised into four main stages. First, the land reform group seeks to understand how the agricultural sector operates in its area, and identifies those agencies that provide technical and managerial support. Next, practical research is undertaken to provide information on the livelihoods of the group members, the various objectives of the group and the agricultural potential of the land. A committee develops a realistic management plan to pursue the objectives, taking account of the resource constraints. Then, once the group as a whole has taken collective ownership of the plan, implementation starts, and the necessary technical and financial inputs must be secured. Finally, the outcomes of the plan will be monitored and evaluated against indicators generated and agreed by the group.

FARM-Africa has used this new participatory planning method successfully with groups of various sizes, and with groups which have acquired their land through various means (through the restitution programme, and through the redistribution programme that enabled them either to buy privately owned farms or to gain access to so-called commonage). At every step in the process, FARM-Africa has provided support to group members.

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