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Lahiff, Edward P. (1997) Agriculture and rural livelihoods in a South African 'homeland': A case study from Venda. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This is a socio-economic study of agriculture and its contribution to livelihoods in Venda, one of the black 'homelands' created in South Africa under apartheid. It is based on a survey of households on the Tshiombo irrigation scheme, a project in central Venda with approximately six hundred plot-holders. The alms of the study are to understand the opportunities and constraints facing small farmers, and to suggest ways in which public action can promote rural livelihoods and overcome the legacy of racial oppression and under-development in South Africa. The study includes a review of micro-studies of agriculture and livelihoods from the ten former homelands. A range of unpublished materials and original field research are also used to provide an overview of society and economy in Venda at the end of apartheid and to highlight the problems faced by households attempting to secure a livelihood from the land. The Tshiombo case found that agriculture, on average, contributed approximately a quarter of household income (in cash and kind), with the balance coming mainly from wages and state pensions. Wide disparities were found between households, however, in terms of land-holding, agricultural output and overall household income. Relative poverty was associated with a lack of wage income and poorer households tended to be disproportionately dependent on agriculture. Both arable and livestock farming were dominated by older men, some of whom had a history of off-farm employment but others who had been full-time farmers since the 1960s. The study concludes that there is scope for further development of the agricultural economy at Tshiombo but this will require comprehensive reform of existing state services such as tractor ploughing and agricultural extension. More flexible partnerships between the state and non-state organisations, including private entrepreneurs, individual farmers and the struggling Tshiombo Co-operative in the provision of credit, marketing and transport services are also identified as areas suitable for development. Constraints of land, capital and household labour suggest that in most cases agriculture is likely to remain supplementary to income obtained from the non-farm economy, but can be a valuable source of food and an important safety-net in times of crisis.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:07

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