Original Articles

Coming to grips with 'abandoned arable' land in efforts to enhance communal grazing systems in the Eastern Cape province, South Africa


The communal lands of the Eastern Cape have been regarded as both tools and problems by policy-makers. In particular, communal lands are problematised as environmentally degraded, of suboptimum productivity and constraining economic development. The Eastern Cape Communal Arable Lands Research Project was framed within this policy discourse with the aim of introducing legume-based pasture into 'abandoned arable lands'. Initial results from community workshops show that the institutional arrangements for these arable lands vary widely and, with them, the capacity to utilise any new technology that may have application to them. Rather than simply draw on social capital, if a participatory research approach is to enhance the agency of the participating communities, it may need to contribute to social capital building and especially to create a dialogical space in which the matters being researched can be discussed meaningfully.

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