Promoting smallholder agriculture in the Eastern Cape: A Practice and Policy Dialogue

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The University of Fort Hare in collaboration with the Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency and the US based Centre for integrated Agricultural systems of the University of Wisconsin, hosted a policy dialogue to observe and share ideas on the impact of smallholder led development in the Eastern Cape. The dialogue attended by practitioners, policy makers, academics and students was held at UFH’s East London Campus on 09 March 2018.


Agriculture has long been cited as central to solving South Africa’s rural unemployment crisis, while also being identified as the backbone of rural development. The National Development Plan popularised the idea that, if properly supported, agriculture and its linked sectors could contribute 1 million new jobs by 2030. Notably, most of these jobs would not be in large-scale commercial agriculture, but rather among smallholder farmers, especially those in the former homeland areas and on land reform land, be they subsistence producers or commercial-oriented full-time farmers.


The dialogue saw a number of presentations from various experts, amongst them Professor  Abbyssinia Mushunje from Fort  Hare’s agricultural economics department, Mr Mxolisi Mda, a maize farmer associated with one of ECRDA’s projects in Mbizana; Mr Sinelizwi Fakade from Grain SA; Mr Mpumelelo Ncwadi, an independent consultant,  Prof Michael Bell and Dr Valerie Stull from the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems; and Mr Wiseman Goqwana from the Department Rural Development and Agrarian Reform.


The general feeling from the dialogue was that although progress was made, much of the potential of the Eastern Cape’s smallholder sector remains untapped, even while some of the marketing challenges are being addressed, there remains a large amount of under-utilised land, and questions of best practice remain regarding the role of group-based projects and partnerships. Further engagement is needed to find solutions to the many challenges that continue to hinder the sector.