Following the historic elections in 1994, the South African Government embarked on an
ambitious land reform programme, aiming to have 30 per cent of South Africa’s agricultural land
in black ownership by 2015. The programme has three elements.
- Restitution – restoring land to people who were displaced as a result of discriminatory land legislation.
- Tenure reform – addressing the causes of insecurity of tenure.
- Redistribution – transferring land from white to black ownership.
Many of those who receive land through the programme have limited experience of managing
natural resources, so they need support in developing knowledge and skills to use their land
effectively. In particular, land reform groups need help in drawing up a realistic plan to develop
their farms which is acceptable to all their members.
FARM-Africa has been supporting the land reform programme since 1995. It started work then
with the Riemvasmaak community (situated to the west of Upington), in close collaboration
with the Northern Cape Provincial Departments of Agriculture and Land Affairs.Thereafter,
FARM-Africa was asked to work with more land reform groups. Since 2002 it has been piloting
the new participatory planning method which it has developed.This approach enables groups to
work jointly through a sequence of steps in order to develop and implement a land
The participatory planning method steps can be summarised into four main stages. First, the
land reform group seeks to understand how the agricultural sector operates in its area, and
identifies those agencies that provide technical and managerial support. Next, practical research
is undertaken to provide information on the livelihoods of the group members, the various
objectives of the group and the agricultural potential of the land. A committee develops a
realistic management plan to pursue the objectives, taking account of the resource constraints.
Then, once the group as a whole has taken collective ownership of the plan, implementation
starts, and the necessary technical and financial inputs must be secured. Finally, the outcomes of
the plan will be monitored and evaluated against indicators generated and agreed by the group.
FARM-Africa has used this new participatory planning method successfully with groups of
various sizes, and with groups which have acquired their land through various means (through
the restitution programme, and through the redistribution programme that enabled them
either to buy privately owned farms or to gain access to so-called commonage). At every step
in the process, FARM-Africa has provided support to group members.