Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

Agriculture: Analysis of the NIDS Wave 1 Dataset
July 2009
Julian May and Michael Carter
National Income Dynamics Study (NiDS)

Acknowledgements: FANRPAN acknowledges National Income Dynamics Study (NiDS) as the source of this document:


The agricultural sector in South Africa is starkly dualistic, comprising a highly capitalised well-integrated commercial sector, and a subsistence sector that is mostly to be found in the former ‘homeland’ areas. Although only about 12 percent of South Africa can be used for crop production, with areas of high-potential making up 22 percent of this land, South Africa is virtually self-sufficient in all major agricultural products and is usually a net food exporter. Further, while agriculture production contributes less than 3 percent to GDP and 7.2 percent of formal employment, downstream linkages into agro-industrial processing increases this contribution to 15 percent of GDP. The Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State are the largest provinces in terms of the number of commercial farms, although Gauteng displaces the Free State in terms of gross farming income. Estimates of the contribution of the subsistence sector in terms of value, employment and impact on food security are scanty and prone to measurement error. Official statistics show employment in ‘informal sector agriculture’ to be highly variable, but attribute some 470 000 workers to this sector, mostly concentrated in KwaZulu-Natal (42.6 percent) and the Eastern Cape (37.3 percent) (Stats SA, 2007: xiv).

In this discussion paper, we will first discuss the potential role that can be played by agricultural production and by government support for this sector. We will then note methodological decisions concerning weighting and the selection of variables that have been used. We then go onto discuss data contained in the Adult Questionnaire which can be used to show the demographic profile of those who are employed in informal or subsistence agriculture. The information in the household questionnaire is then discussed and these data are combined in a preliminary analysis of the outcomes from agricultural production on household well-being. We end by noting some data quality concerns and make suggestions for amendments to the Wave 2 questionnaire.

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