Commercialisation, deagrarianisation and the accumulation/reproduction dynamic: Massive maize production schemes in the Eastern Cape, South Africa
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The post-apartheid era has seen the South African government trying to reverse ‘deagrarianisation’ in the former homelands by introducing ‘modern’ farming techniques and agribusiness principles. This paper situates the massive maize schemes currently being implemented in the context of increased national and international capitalisation of agriculture. The paper focuses on the ‘communal area’ villages of Ongeluksnek Valley in the Eastern Cape, one of the localities where the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa (AsgiSA) maize scheme was initiated. The scheme requires villagers to consolidate their arable fields into larger blocks of land which can be ‘efficiently’ cultivated by private contractors using machinery and agro-chemicals. Villagers are not involved in decision making, but receive 10% of gross income in return, while ‘learning about’ commercial production. In practice, however, costs are high, and very little surplus is available for redistribution to the beneficiaries. In this paper, we argue that the process of capital accumulation, and associated trajectories of increased centralisation and concentration, is critical to understanding the social reproduction and accumulation dynamics of small scale farming in the countryside. The current corporate food regime constrains accumulation from below.