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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

The Covid pandemic, cultivation and livelihoods in South Africa's Eastern Cape

Fischer, Klara; Mnukwa, Nomahlubi; Bengtsson, Amanda


South African smallholders have disengaged from cultivation in recent decades despite the lack of alternative incomes. The Covid-19 pandemic led to further rises in poverty and food insecurity. Between March and May 2022, we asked respondents from all 104 households in one village in the Eastern Cape province about how the pandemic had impacted their lives, and their perspectives on and engagement in agriculture. The majority reported that school closures and loss of incomes had led to increased food insecurity. Overall the respondents did not report that the pandemic had had any significant positive or negative impact on cultivation. Material limitations (purchased seed, fertiliser, fencing and traction) were widely mentioned as hampering the possibility of cultivating land already before the pandemic. At the same time, many respondents expressed a love for farming. Future agricultural development support could be directed at promoting farming systems that are less dependent on external inputs and that can support rural livelihoods in the face of external shocks and crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic.


Deagrarianisation; Covid-19; livelihoods; Africa; agriculture

Published in

2023, Volume: 62, number: 3-4, pages: 279-291