South African Land Expropriation without Compensation; a Threat or an Opportunity to Botswana Food Security? | Land Portal

The passing of the Land Expropriation Without Compensation bill by the South African parliament with overwhelming support by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has instigated uncertainties in the country's property rights and agricultural production. The proposed land reform policy will negatively and positively affect Access, Availability, Utilisation and Stability dimensions of food security in Botswana due to the country’s deeper integration with South African food and agricultural trade markets.


In 2017 agricultural exports from South Africa were valued at $10 billion, of which 56% was exported to African countries. In the same year, Botswana's imports of top 10 essential agricultural products increased by more than 67% compared to in 2010, while agricultural exports to South Africa remained very low and stagnant. The long agricultural bilateral trade relationship between Botswana and South Africa is proving to be a poisoned chalice inherited from the injustices of the post-apartheid ANC government. Dejectedly, Botswana continues to benefit from the unjust post-apartheid neoliberal agricultural policy that transferred property rights to the minority whites at the expense of the majority black South Africans. Since 1994, an estimated 87% of the land has remained in the hands of the settlers, and over 90% of agribusinesses are dominated by the white minority and few Black Economic Empowerment elites. These include major food retailers, farm technology and machinery manufacturers, animal feeds, seeds and fertiliser manufacturers that dominate agricultural value chain in Botswana. Any radical or unconstitutional seizure of productive farmland and property will increase transaction costs for farmers and inputs distributors and negatively affecting the supply side of food and agricultural inputs. Moreover, the radical policy will increase the costs of food production in Botswana and further contribute to the country's low and declining agricultural productivity.    

Furthermore, the affirmative expropriation of land without compensation if not adequately handled will redistribute productive land that was efficiently used by white farmers to predominately black farmers who might take years to produce surplus agro-food products for exportation. Consequently, South Africa will reduce food exports to manage food prices and meet the demand in the country’s domestic markets. Indeed, agricultural free trade significantly reduces the volatility of food prices and market instability. Agricultural free trade is critical for offsetting domestic food production shocks caused by climate change factors such as drought and El Nino effects detrimental to agriculture in Botswana. Thus, the restricted trade flows from South Africa will increase domestic price volatility, particularly the prices of staple foods. Therefore, Botswana will struggle to afford high food import bills in the long run, thus failing to bring national food supply and demand into equilibrium which will worsen the country’s food security. The increased share of food import expenditure in the total merchandise trade will force the state to focus only on importing mainly staples limiting access and availability of a variety of quality foods. The outcomes will be adverse health and malnutrition problems in the country. However, in the long run, this might stimulate local production of a variety and quality food to meet the country’s food demand. Also, Botswana's smallholder farmers may capitalise on the shortage of food supplies and higher domestic prices by increasing local production, which would enhance the country's food self-sufficiency. Thus, enabling resuscitation of the internal output which has almost collapsed due to heavy reliance on South African food and agricultural imports.

The South African land reform policy if not handled cautiously, will expose Botswana to food price shocks and instability detrimental to the country’s food security. However, the restriction of agricultural trade may enable Botswana to focus on increasing the availability, access and consumption of a variety of quality local food from small-scale farmers through rustic, sustainable intensification approach. 

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