Status report on land and agricultural policy in South Africa, 2010
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Agriculture plays numerous roles in society. The most obvious is to produce food (and, to a lesser extent, fibre). While agriculture is the mainstay of the rural economy, it also shapes social relations and landscapes. In some countries, this is taken as an unmitigated positive. However, in South Africa, agriculture is built on the back of dispossession of the African population and their social, economic and political marginalisation. It is built on extractive methods that deplete the soil, the water and the natural vegetation. Agricultural policy in post-apartheid South Africa must grasp these contradictions, simultaneously strengthening the positive features of agriculture and abolishing those that rely on the immiseration of human beings and the destruction of the environment. Agriculture was not high on the list of priorities for the post-apartheid government. It was one of the sectors that experienced deep cuts in the budget following the demise of apartheid. Only from around 2003 did the budget start climbing again, but the 2011 budget estimates are still below those of the 1980s in real terms. Provincial budgets are stagnating.