Examining Livelihoods and Reconsidering Rural Development in the Former Homelands of South Africa

Persistent poverty and under-development in South Africa’s former homeland communal areas have been little changed by post-apartheid ‘rural development’ policy. Rural development policy has often been characterised by impulses towards topdown planning, a default assumption that agriculture ought to drive rural development, a reliance on resource-intensive income generation projects, and general inattention to the larger economy (including the role of urban linkages, employment and markets). Contested rural governance and weak public administration further inhibit rural development in the communal areas. Against this backdrop, livelihoods-orientated enquiry amongst impoverished rural households contributes to reassessing and rethinking rural development policy. This policy brief draws on qualitative and quantitative enquiry undertaken in a former ‘homeland’ or ‘bantustan’, in the rural Eastern Cape. The research combined in-depth household interviews with longitudinal (across time) NIDS (National Income Dynamics Study) and area-based Census 2011 data. Integrating these enables the depth and specificity of household qualitative inquiry to be contextualised in relation to larger (quantitative) dynamics.