Classification and characterisation of smallholder farmers in South Africa: a brief review


  • CPR Carelson Western Cape Department of Agriculture, South Africa
  • B Ncube Centre for Water and Sanitation Research, Department of Civil Engineering and Surveying, Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa
  • M Fanadzo Department of Agriculture, Faculty of Applied Sciences, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa



Farmer classification, support, livelihoods


The South African agricultural sector has experienced various transformation processes over the past 25 years, from a predominantly white commercial sector to a black focused sector with an emphasis on smallholder farming. The government is committed to supporting the smallholder farming sector through interventions that include land reform and access to water, amongst others. Despite these efforts, smallholder farmers remain vulnerable, especially during drought periods. Smallholder farmers are not homogeneous; instead, they are diverse, and their farming needs also differ according to their livelihood needs. Due to the diversity of smallholder farmers, it is difficult for the government to effectively respond to their needs. The 2015–2018 drought is a case in point. This paper assesses the challenges of defining and classifying smallholder farmers in South Africa. The complex Western Cape classification system is presented as a case study. The study concludes that there is a need for a simpler method of grouping the smallholder farmers based on their livelihoods to develop relevant support systems.


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How to Cite

Carelson, C., Ncube, B., & Fanadzo, M. (2021). Classification and characterisation of smallholder farmers in South Africa: a brief review. South African Journal of Agricultural Extension (SAJAE), 49(2), 97–106.