6.2.5. Outcomes of the South Africa Land Reform Programme, and link to Poverty AlleviationVery little official data is available on the impact of land reform on agricultural production and on the livelihoods of beneficiaries. What is available, however, points to widespread under-utilisation of land, a lack of external support and minimal impact on livelihoods for most participants. The on-going failure of an effective monitoring and evaluation (M&E) programme within land reform has been widely commented on, and reveals a key strategic weakness at the heart of the programme.
Reliable data is necessary not only to understand the impact of land reform, but also to allow for periodic assessment and adjustment by policy makers, as observed by (Chimhowu 2006: 31), A lack of good quality systems to generate information on the poverty impact of reforms is a programme design flaw and demonstrates a lack of focus on the processes meant to transform land into sustainable livelihoods, as much as it is about the real concern of political elite with targets for land transfers.
This is particularly important from a poverty alleviation point of view. Without effective targeting, backed up by effective M&E systems, there is no way of distinguishing between the poor in general, the chronically poor or the non-poor. Without reliable baseline data on people participating in land reform it is not possible to know the impact on livelihoods (even if such things were being measured, which they generally are not), and to make the necessary adjustments to policy. The context in which new and existing resource-poor farmers operate is becoming increasingly hostile, due to changes in world and local markets and because of changes in government policy. At a general level, Vink and Kirsten (2003), argue that conditions in the communal farming areas have remained largely unchanged or may even have worsened after eight years of land reform, and suggest that there is no evidence that the supposed beneficiaries of land reform are better off because of their participation in the programme. Similarly, Seekings and Nattrass (2005:357) make an explicit links between changes in the agricultural economy and increasing poverty, and to link this further to failures in the land reform programme. Instead of increasing employment in agriculture, they argue, government’s macro-economic policies have caused agricultural employment to fall dramatically, swelling the ranks of the unskilled unemployed, overall government policy has not succeeded in being pro-poor. Farm workers have experienced continued retrenchments and dispossession, despite supposedly protective legislation. Land reform has not benefited the poor significantly. The reforms that have been implemented have generally been to the benefit of a constituency that was already relatively advantaged. In this crucial sector, the post-apartheid distributional regime has not resulted in improved livelihoods for the poor.On the more positive side, authors such as Deininger and May (2000:17) point to the potential of smallholder agriculture to contribute to agricultural employment and poverty alleviation, but, other than demonstrating that land reform was successfully targeting the poor, were unable to provide evidence that such potential was being realised in practice, the fact that economically successful projects reached significantly higher levels of poor people suggests that increased access to productive assets could be an important avenue for poverty reduction. Given the importance of developing a diverse and less subsidy-dependent rural sector, a suitably adapted land reform could play an important role in the restructuring of South Africa’s rural sector.Such claims have been challenged by authors such as Schrimmer (2000), who argues that beneficiaries lack the capital necessary to produce, and Aliber and Mokoena (2003) who argued that continuity in farm use, especially capital intensive methods, fail to exploit the labour that the poor have available. DLA’s Quality of Life survey of 1999 found that only 16 per cent of projects were delivering sustainable’ revenues (May and Roberts 2000:14), while a subsequent study of 2002 found that in many projects no production is happening and some beneficiaries are worse off following reform (Ahmed et al. 2003: xxvi). Interestingly, most households that were producing were found to be focussing on staple food crops for own consumption, something that features in virtually no business plan and that received little or no support from either the Department of Land Affairs or provincial Departments of Agriculture. A similar picture is emerging from studies of restitution claims settled through land restoration and resettlement of communities. In a review of a range of recent studies, PLAAS (2006) reported that of 128 restitution projects with agricultural developmental aims, 83 percent had not achieved these developmental aims. Approximately nine percent had partially achieved their agricultural developmental aims but were not generating any income. A further five percent had partially achieved their agricultural developmental aims and were generating income but not profit and were not considered sustainable as yet. Two percent had achieved their agricultural developmental aims and were generating profits that were being reinvested. Across all projects (a total of 128) the majority of all members had not yet managed to access any land, and only one project had attained its agricultural aims and was in a position to distribute income among its members. The most striking finding from the case studies are that the majority of beneficiaries across all the restitution projects have received no material benefits whatsoever from restitution in the form of cash income or access to land (PLAAS 2006).In a study of the wider impact of land reform on agricultural production and welfare in the Eastern Cape, Aliber et al (2006) found a drop in production (relative to the previous owners) alongside modest improvements in the livelihoods of those who now own and work the land. Thus, welfare (equity) objectives were being achieved, to some degree, but at the expense of growth (efficiency). In a district study from a high-value wine and fruit belt in the Western Cape, Kleinbooi et al. (2006) show that land reform has not led to any major changes in land use and only very modest contributions to livelihoods. Only twelve projects have been established in the area, and of these only two have involved the transfer of land ownership. The rest have been farm worker equity schemes and tenure security projects for farm dwellers. The impact on beneficiaries has been limited, but not negligible’, largely taking the form of improving quality of housing and working conditions, or tenure rights on farms. Cash dividends, the major benefit anticipated in equity schemes have been paid out only once, and in only one scheme. Significantly, the most that senior figures closely associated with South African land reform were able to say twelve years into the process was that [l]and and agricultural policy reform in South Africa holds the promise of increasing efficiency, equity and generating jobs’, but were unable to present any evidence that this was happening in practice (van den Brink et al 2006: 25; emphasis added). The persistent failure of the Department of Land Affairs to monitor the land reform programme in detail is difficult to explain. Evaluation of long-term outcomes of reform is only one dimension of this process, and one that could be carried out by external researchers, and there is clearly scope for more systematic evaluative studies by organisation within and outside government. More worrying, however, is the lack of routine data gathering and reporting on the Department’s own day-to-day activities. Cumulative totals of hectares transferred and individuals benefiting, per province, have been released from time to time, but never on a regular basis, and major doubts have been raised about the accuracy of some of these figures. No reliable data sets have been released for independent analysis, and it appears likely that none exist. Reliable lists of projects and beneficiaries, with basic data on land value and quality and demographic details, are required as the basis for more in-depth studies, and this data can only be gathered by DLA in the course of its routine operations. In addition to projects implemented, data is required on applications refused and projects that do not come to fruition, in order to understand the wider impact of the programme and the challenges it faces.6.2.6. Recent policy debatesA number of policy changes are currently under consideration by the South African government, especially following the National Land Summit of July 2005 where much criticism was levelled by representatives of civil society against the willing seller, willing buyer approach, the slow pace of land transfers and the on-going abuse of farm dwellers. Most of the debate has, as usual, been around the process of land acquisition, including the supposed resistance of white landowners and the high prices being demanded for land, and although government is showing reluctance to intervene in the market it appears that some modest measures may be adopted to improve to supply of land for reform purposes. Policies currently under consideration (2006-2007) include restrictions on ownership of land by foreigners, a land tax, proactive land acquisition by the state (presumably from willing sellers and without expropriation) and an area based approach which would include a greater role in land reform for local government. Within the restitution programme, attention is being paid to reforming the process of project planning and the delivery of post-settlement support, but this is still at an early stage.The focus of most policy debate in recent years has been on the pace of reform (i.e. the rate of land transfer), with some attention of late to the widespread failure of land reform projects to deliver material benefits to their members, but this has not included a specific focus on poverty alleviation. Key elements of a more poverty-focussed programme would have to include reform of the process of beneficiary selection to target poorer households, project design that emphasised low input, labour intensive production for direct consumption and local markets, extension services and easily-accessible small-scale credit. None of these have featured significantly in recent debates, and where they have they have been decidedly anti-poor. Particular emphasis has been placed on project viability’, which signifies selection of better-resourced and experienced beneficiaries, more commercial’ forms of production and continuity in land use between old and new farm owners. Needless to say, subdivision of land does not feature prominently in these debates. Probably the most extreme example of this emphasis on viability (quickly becoming dominant in restitution and likely to spread to redistribution as well) is the concept of strategic partnerships’ between land reform beneficiaries and external investors, which emphasises continuity of (commercial) production and a reduced role for beneficiaries (Derman et al 2006). This shift is a major advance for the modernist-conservative (MC) camp, as it preserves the structure of farming units and the minimises the change in the agricultural economy, while broadening nominal ownership of land and the distribution of benefits from agriculture. It is likely to lead to some consolidation of farming units ” the direct opposite of sub-division ” and substitutes remote corporate entities for owneroperators. While this may bring some economies of scale, it is highly unlikely to lead to the types of total factor productivity (efficiency) gains envisaged by neoliberal (NL) theorists. It also represents a major setback for the radical populist (RP) position ” possibly the most severe to date ” as it breaks the direct link between people and land and reduces members of claimant communities to passive shareholders in enterprises that are effectively beyond their control. The results of any acceleration of land acquisition as a result of these emerging policies will, of course, depend on how, and to whom, it is redistributed, the models of agricultural production promoted and the degree of support provided. Accelerated land redistribution may be supported by all three main camps, in that it serves to deracialise landholding, but in the current policy climate it appears highly unlikely that it will lead to the creation of the more efficient family farms espoused by the NL position, or to the direct access for land for survivalist purposes as espoused by RP adherents. Neither of these latter two camps would appear to have much influence over current policy debates ” despite the rhetoric of the National Land Summit ” and poverty alleviation does not appear to be anywhere addressed.