Unpacking the ‘Emergent Farmer’ Concept in Agrarian Reform: Evidence from Livestock Farmers in South Africa

Lovemore Christopher Gwiriri, James Bennett, Cletos Mapiye, Sara Burbi

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    19 Citations (Scopus)
    153 Downloads (Pure)


    South Africa has historically perpetuated a dual system of freehold commercial and communal subsistence farming. To bridge these extremes, agrarian reform policies have encouraged the creation of a class of ‘emergent’, commercially oriented farmers. However, these policies consider ‘emergent’ farmers as a homogeneous group of land reform beneficiaries, with limited appreciation of the class differences between them, and do little to support the rise of a ‘middle’ group of producers able to bridge that gap. This article uses a case study of livestock farmers in Eastern Cape Province to critique the ‘emergent farmer’ concept. The authors identify three broad categories of farmers within the emergent livestock sector: a large group who, despite having accessed private farms, remain effectively subsistence farmers; a smaller group of small/medium-scale commercial producers who have communal farming origins and most closely approximate to ‘emergent’ farmers; and an elite group of large-scale, fully commercialized farmers, whose emergence has been facilitated primarily by access to capital and a desire to invest in alternative business ventures. On this basis the authors suggest that current agrarian reform policies need considerable refocusing if they are to effectively facilitate the emergence of a ‘middle’ group of smallholder commercial farmers from communal systems.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1664-1686
    Number of pages23
    JournalDevelopment and Change
    Issue number6
    Early online date9 May 2019
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

    Bibliographical note

    This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Gwiriri, LC, Bennett, J, Mapiye, C & Burbi, S 2019, 'Unpacking the ‘emergent farmer’ concept evidence from cattle farmers in South Africa', Development and Change, vol. (In-press), pp. (In-press) which has been published in final form at https://dx.doi.org/10.1111/dech.12516]. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.


    • Agrarian reform
    • Emergent farmers
    • Livestock production
    • Custom feeding programme

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Development


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