Martin Bwalya (CAADP-NEPAD Programme), Phanuel; Mabyane (Mutual & Federal Co., Ltd.) and Andrei Molchan (Ambassador of Belarus) attending a smallholder farmers’ meeting.
Photo: AFASA
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Farmer organisations play a crucial role in the development of rural areas. But how influential are they when it comes to defining national policies? What can they achieve, and where are their limits? Our authors demonstrate this with regard to the small farmer organisations in South Africa.

In developing countries, growth in agriculture has proven to be more effective in reducing poverty than equivalent growth in any other sector, and in sub-Saharan Africa this is as much as 11 times more effective than in non-agricultural sectors. Hence the world has been seeking better ways of growing the agricultural sector, and in the process realised that farmer organisations could play a central role in driving the intended growth.

The South African scenario

In Africa, the role of farmer organisations in driving the development of the sector has increased over the years, especially after the economic structural adjustment programmes that reduced government involvement in providing vital support services such as extension and linkage to markets. In South Africa, the agricultural sector was deregulated in 1996, leaving the farmers vulnerable to free market forces. The shock eliminated many of the smaller commercial farmers, and the number of commercial farmers dropped from 60,900 in 1996 to about 37,000 large-scale farmers presently.

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