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How land reform and rural development can help reduce poverty in South Africa

South Africa will need to review its land reform policy, with an eye to boosting productive land use among the rural poor, if it is to push back rising poverty levels.

The country’s poverty levels have increased sharply over the past five years with an additional 3-million people now classified as living in absolute poverty. This means about 34-million people from a population of 55-million lack basic necessities like housing, transport, food, heating and proper clothing.

Much of the commentary on these sad statistics has emphasised the poor performance of urban job creation efforts and the country’s education system. Little has been said about the role of rural development or land reform.

This is a major omission given that about 35% of South Africa’s population live in rural areas. They are among the worst affected by the rising poverty levels.

Large tracts of land lie fallow in the country’s rural areas, particularly in former homelands (surrogate states created by the apartheid government). They were fully integrated into South Africa in 1994 bringing with them large amounts of land under traditional authorities.

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