Putting Communal Land into Productive Use Through Collaboration, Networking and Partnerships in Rural South Africa

  • Akwasi Arko-AchemfuorEmail author
Part of the Contemporary Systems Thinking book series (CST)


The nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries have seen increasing movements towards neoliberalism and globalisation across the world. A lot of countries and regions across the world have taken advantage of neoliberal policies and globalisation to access markets as well as use innovative technologies to produce goods and services. In spite of the advantages brought about by neoliberalism and globalisation to most parts of the world, some regions in the developing world have been forced to abandon some of the good aspects of their traditions and culture that have sustained and maintained them over the years. Although Africans cannot be said to be a homogenous group, certain aspects of their cultures are similar. This chapter argues that cultural hegemony has led to a situation where the people of Africa have to a large extent abandoned certain aspects of their culture and traditions that have kept their communities over centuries while they at the same time have not been able to fully adopt and adapt to other cultural traditions and systems from elsewhere. Communal ownership of land and other natural resources has been the practice of most African communities, but the advent of colonialism, imperialism and capitalism has contributed to land ownership and use falling into private ownership which most African communities find difficult to adapt to.

This chapter reports on how members of a rural community in South Africa are effectively addressing the challenges of poverty, unemployment, lack of access to private land and food security through the use of communal land in a rural community in the North West Province of South Africa. There are ongoing debates on land ownership, inequality regarding access to land for the majority black population in South Africa. Some commentators argue that communal land that is in the custody of traditional authorities, most especially in the former Bantustans, is not put to productive use to address the challenges of poverty, food security and unemployment in rural areas. I argue that the question on using communal land for rural development is crucial for socioeconomic empowerment of rural communities in particular and social science research in general. I illustrate how communal land is made available by one traditional authority to the members of the community which in collaboration with a non-governmental organisation, an institution of higher learning, a provincial administration and the private sector is putting communal land to productive use through what I refer to as putting “communalism” or “communitarianism” into practice. The lessons from this initiative can serve as a model for using communal land for sustainable livelihoods in rural South Africa and elsewhere on the African continent where communal ownership of land continues to be a major challenge to socioeconomic development of communities.


Agriculture Communal land Culture Globalisation Neoliberalism 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of South AfricaPretoriaSouth Africa

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