Through case studies in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia, this project explored to what extent land redistribution in southern Africa is achieving poverty reduction and improvement of livelihoods. In all three countries planning approaches are informed by a model of ‘farm viability’ drawn from large scale commercial agriculture, which results in project plans and support systems that are poorly aligned to the needs and aspirations of beneficiaries. Positive impacts on livelihoods are more in evidence in Zimbabwe than elsewhere, because of greater flexibility in land use and livelihoods and the much larger scale of land redistribution. In South Africa, various trajectories of change at both project level and in individual livelihood pathways were identified, providing insight into reasons for project success or failure. In Namibia, policies are focused solely on creating smallscale commercial livestock production units, but many beneficiaries do not desire to become commercial farmers, productivity is low, and few other options for land use or livelihoods are provided. In Zimbabwe, a new agrarian structure has emerged. Many beneficiaries are investing in their new plots and producing significant levels of output, despite poor availability of inputs and other problems. This pattern of relative success is highly differentiated by commodity, by annual rainfall, by type of resettlement, and socially. The study demonstrates the utility of a dynamic livelihoods pathways approach to the assessment of land reform in southern Africa, the importance of socially differentiation in land reform contexts, and the need to radically re-think the notion of ‘viability’ of land reform.
Cousins, Ben et al (2010) Livelihoods after land reform: the poverty impacts of land redistribution in southern Africa ESRC End of Award Report, RES-167-25-0037. ESRC, Swindon, UK