Land use and rural livelihoods: Have they been enhanced through land reform?

August 2003
Maura Andrew, Charlie Shackleton and Andrew Ainslie (PLAAS Policy Brief 5)

It is often assumed that transferring land to rural households will provide people with valuable assets that can be productively used to enhance their livelihoods. Unfortunately, few rural people or land reform beneficiaries are perceived to be using land productively because they do not engage in significant commercial production for the market. Transferring land to subsistence users is therefore seen as a waste of resources. However, an examination of land use in communal areas and amongst land reform beneficiaries indicates that resource-poor rural people do use land productively and resourcefully, but the constraints to production and participation in agricultural markets they encounter limit their livelihoods to survivalist mode. Land reform can enhance rural livelihoods beyond this survivalist mode if it is integrated into a broader rural development programme aimed at providing subsistence land users with the support they need to overcome the constraints to production, and to connect them to the markets.