Land Reform – Research Support to the Limpopo Centre for LED

Field research and delineation of policy recommendations to best support the process of agricultural land reform in Limpopo Province, South Africa.



(SLC was the local implementing partner for Cardno Agrisystems Limited (UK), under Framework Contract from EuropeAid).


The Limpopo Department of Local Government & Housing & European Union


Andrew Charman, Leif Petersen, Fuad Cassim, Glen Steyn, James Mabela, Andrew Hartnack, Philly Manavela


Land reform has been of high priority on the government’s policy agenda since the first democratic elections of 1994. It has been implemented through a range of interventions to pursue the triple objectives of i) land redistribution, ii) land restitution and iii) tenure reform. The overarching aim of the land reform programme is to engineer the transfer of 30% of commercial farmland to black farmers by 2014. In Limpopo Province a high proportion of commercial land has already been claimed by communities for restitution. The government clearly can therefore go a long way towards fulfilling its goal and returning land to communities and individuals with genuine claims of dispossession in terms of the Restitution of Land Rights Act.


The overriding objectives of the study were two-fold: first, to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the land reform process in Limpopo, and second, to develop a ‘best practice’ approach, or viable scenario, for post-settlement land restitution.

The specific tasks of the consultancy were to:

  • Review and collect existing studies undertaken on land reform
  • Review and summarize existing land reform processes and procedures and identification of delays
  • Analyze land reform status to date
  • Assess the economic impact of land reform (outputs, productivity, multiplier, land use and utilization assessment) historically and with scenario-setting for the future
  • Assess the institutional framework supporting land reform (government bodies and communal property associations) and the situation of restituted land with Communal Partnership Agreements (CPAs)
  • Review pilot projects supported by Limpopo LED
  • Draw up lessons learned from this approach for training.


Land reform in Limpopo has come under close scrutiny from academic, farming and civil society stakeholders. This is attributable to several factors, including the high proportion of commercial farmland land under claim (approximately 80%), the articulated land requirements of marginalized and poor communities in the former homeland areas, the seemingly slow pace of land transfer land and, notably, the relatively poor achievement of many land reform initiatives. The Consultant examined key literature on the land reform process in Limpopo. A number of themes emerged, including weak community cohesion among land reform beneficiaries, the poor institutional capacity of CPAs, inadequate support for CPAs, poor integration of land reform into IDPs and new development possibilities through strategic partnerships. A number of gaps in the research were also identified, including the lack of research on the economics of land reform in Limpopo, on land reform and local economic development, and on the agricultural environment.

The land reform process has also proceeded slowly. By 2008 the Department of Land Affairs (DLA) had returned only 3% of the land area of Limpopo Province. This protracted pace is a cause of great concern. It has negatively impacted on the agricultural sector; delays have given rise to uncertainty, thus undermining investment. Although the government has put considerable resources into creating a black farming class, there are worries that these emerging farmers still lack the capacity, skills and know-how to be able farm commercially. Despite these setbacks, the reform programme has had some success, most notably in the public-private partnerships between CPAs and strategic agribusiness entities.

The SLC study concluded that land reform needs to be seen in both economic and political dimensions. The current approach to land reform, which is characterized by an increasing supply of services and financial grants, will be difficult to sustain given the growing demands on state resources to provide direct services.

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