Joint Publications

Phase 2 – Agroecological initiatives in South Africa: Lessons and recommendations from three study sites – Synthesis report

Published 31 October 2022, by Stephen Greenberg, Scott Drimie, Bruno Losch and Noxolo Jila

Background to the study 

Low- and medium-income countries face several interlinked sustainability challenges. In particular, food systems must provide food and nutrition security, decent jobs and incomes, and adapt to climate change in a context where government budgets are constrained. Agroecological approaches are increasingly recognised as relevant solutions for ensuring sustainable food production and security under climate change and without any negative environmental impacts. 

Several knowledge gaps exist about the possible contribution of agroecological food systems for sustainable development and, particularly, their capacity to provide: 

  • food security: sufficient, affordable, nutritious and healthy food for rural and urban populations; 
  • decent jobs and incomes; and 
  • food production that respects the environment while adapting to climate change. 

Ongoing projects and research initiatives mostly focus on the socioeconomic and environmental assessment of agroecological practices at the farm and landscape levels. In addition to addressing this core level of analysis, the Transitions to Agroecological Food Systems (TAFS) project also deals with public policies and food systems. 

This research report is the second phase of the multi-stage TAFS project. The first phase provided an overview of actors, policies and discourses on agroecology in South Africa, at the national level1. It also identified possible sites of existing agroecological transitions to be investigated during the second phase. These sites are Overstrand Local Municipality (LM) in the Western Cape; Matatiele LM in the Eastern Cape; and Inchanga in eThekwini Metro in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). 

The objectives of the research are: 

to describe, analyse and characterise the food systems engaged in agroecological transitions in the selected sites; 

to understand how national, provincial and local government policies and initiatives supporting agroecological practices are translated at the local level; 

to understand how national, provincial and local government policies and initiatives constrain agroecological practices at the local level; 

to identify initiatives from local state and non-state actors supporting the transition to agroecological food systems at the territorial level, to put into perspective the evolution of these systems with their institutional and political environment at the territorial level; 

to provide a basis for the analysis of the possible evolutions of food systems (phase three of the wider project); and for the identification of the main value chains, activities and practices, as well as actors of the food systems, whose socioeconomic performance will be studied further (phase four). 

The research ultimately aims to identify the levers which can facilitate the development and progressive transition to agroecological practices and the evolution of local food systems. 

related Publications

TAFS Policy Brief 2: Learning from Local Initiatives for Agroecological Development in South Africa

Synopsis Transformation of food systems in line with agroecological principles remains marginal in South Africa. In spite of numerous policies, plans and programmes, limited change highlights the weak budgets, segmented interventions and lack of coordination. These problems reflect the power dynamics in the prevailing food system, which is dominated by ...

TAFS Policy Brief 1: Transitions to Agroecological Food Systems in South Africa – Policy landscape and strategic opportunities

Synopsis for an agroecology transition in South Africa In South Africa, access to food and adequate nutrition is a right enshrined in the Constitution. Yet, hunger is rife and food access is a daily struggle for more than 14 million South Africans (23% of the population), with malnutrition in its various forms ...

Journal Articles
Decent Employment and the Future of Agriculture. How Dominant Narratives Prevent Addressing Structural Issues