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Land 2018, 7(4), 121; https://doi.org/10.3390/land7040121

Cropland Abandonment in South African Smallholder Communal Lands: Land Cover Change (1950–2010) and Farmer Perceptions of Contributing Factors

Department of Environmental Science, Rhodes University, Grahamstown 6139, South Africa
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Received: 6 August 2018 / Revised: 30 August 2018 / Accepted: 13 September 2018 / Published: 16 October 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agricultural Land Abandonment: Patterns, Drivers and Consequences)
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Abstract

Despite agricultural land abandonment threatening the food security and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, it is pervasive globally and in developing countries. Yet land abandonment is an understudied aspect of land use change in social–ecological systems. Here we provide more information on this phenomenon by exploring cropland abandonment during 1950–2010 in four former South African ‘homelands’—part of the ‘Apartheid’ era racially-based land allocation programs—characterized by rural, smallholder farmers. Cropland abandonment 1950–2010 was widespread in all surveyed sites (KwaZulu: 0.08% year−1, Transkei: 0.13% year−1, Lebowa: 0.23% year−1, Venda: 0.28% year−1), with rates peaking between 1970 and 1990, with concomitant increases (up to 0.16% year−1) of woody vegetation cover at the expense of grassland cover. Active and past farmers attributed cropland abandonment to a lack of draught power, rainfall variability and droughts, and a more modernized youth disinclined to living a marginal agrarian lifestyle. We discuss the potential social and ecological implications of abandoned croplands at the local and regional scales, as the deagrarianization trend is unlikely to abate considering the failure of current South African national agricultural incentives. View Full-Text
Keywords: agricultural land abandonment; bush encroachment; deagrarianization; homelands; old fields; social–ecological systems; rural farmers agricultural land abandonment; bush encroachment; deagrarianization; homelands; old fields; social–ecological systems; rural farmers
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Blair, D.; Shackleton, C.M.; Mograbi, P.J. Cropland Abandonment in South African Smallholder Communal Lands: Land Cover Change (1950–2010) and Farmer Perceptions of Contributing Factors. Land 2018, 7, 121.

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