Joint ventures in the Flag Boshielo Irrigation Scheme, South Africa: a history of smallholders, states and business
van Koppen, Barbara
Tapela, Barbara Nompumelelo
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For over a century, debates about the relation between farm size, mode of farming and land productivity have shaped agrarian policies, programs and research across the world. Until the 2000s, the pendulum tended to swing towards small-scale family farming. An inverse relationship between farm size and land productivity was widely found in Asia (Berry and Cline 1979). Millions of smallholder families cultivating 1 hectare (ha) or less intensified production for food and income. Their productivity depended on access to production factors, in particular fertilizers and irrigation, and access to rewarding output markets. Family members had more incentives to produce than wage laborers on larger farms. Larger farms were only more productive per unit of land when certain mechanization, such as tractors, started enabling economies of scale. Accordingly, agricultural policies in countries such as China and India primarily supported smallholders. In China, where land distribution became fairly egalitarian, this smallholder policy led to massive poverty alleviation and broad-based economic growth.