Urban Agriculture in South Africa: A Study of the Eastern Cape Province

Author: Thornton, Alexander
This volume includes quantitative and qualitative analysis of urban farming in relation to agricultural production and public policy in South Africa. Thornton shows the complexity of the issue as it relates to rampant unemployment and how it can quell certain social problems like a lack of food. Urban farming should, theoretically, be prolific in developing countries experiencing problems associated with modernization which creates food security issues. It also provides employment opportunities for urban poor, but this is met with stigmatizing among modern-thinking youth who want to avoid traditional occupations.

The author provides an overview of the most urban country in Africa, South Africa, and how for a long time politics impeded urban agriculture. It is widely understood that urban agriculture is an important livelihood strategy among the poor for food security and income generation in developing countries. In South Africa, it is emerging as a strategy for poverty alleviation. Despite high unemployment, urban agriculture appears less robust among South Africa’s urban poor households when compared to other developing countries.

The reason for this is the role of a social welfare grant system which provides the key source of household income for most people. The book explores the nature and geographical extent of urban agriculture in one of South Africa’s poorest provinces, the Eastern Cape.


“Thornton interrogates the role and contribution of urban agriculture towards addressing poverty alleviation, and provides a fresh and thoughtful perspective for policy makers and administrators.”

-Dr. Glen Reynolds,
University of Sunderland, Ph.D.

“Thornton presents some insightful policy recommendations for urban planners and others concerned with the present and future status of urban and peri-urban agriculture. It makes an important contribution to the growing literature on the topic.”

-Prof. Tony Binns,
University of Otago

"This book is insightful and an excellent source book in terms of providing a state-of-the-art review of existing scholarship, empirical evidence and also, method for the genre it has engaged with. In addition, I am of the view that this is a valuable and useful contribution for any doctoral student setting out to develop their fieldwork programmes." - Gustav Visser, University of the Free State

Table of Contents


FOREWORD: Christian M. Rogerson xvii
CHAPTER 1: Introduction 1
1.1 Overview 1
1.2 Why Study Urban Agriculture in the Eastern Cape Province? 3
1.3 Global Overview of Urban Agriculture 4
1.4 The South African Context 6
1.5 Apartheid and Self Sufficiency 9
1.6 Relevance of the Study: Urban Agriculture in Sustainable Urban Development Discourse 11
1.7 Aims, Research Questions & Contribution of the Study 15
1.8 Study Structure 17
CHAPTER 2: Literature Review 19
Introduction 19
2.1 Historical Overview 20
2.2 Contemporary Debates in Defining Urban Agriculture 22
2.3 Urban Agriculture Claims & Criticisms 29
2.4 Theoretical & Conceptual Issues 34
2.4.1 Conceptual Framework 35
2.4.2 Conceptual Considerations 39
2.5 ‘Informalising’ Urban Agriculture 45
2.6 The Eco-City: Urban Agriculture in the Developed World 47
2.7 Urban Agriculture Practice in the Developing World & ‘Economies in Transition’: The Americas, Asia, Caribbean and Eastern Europe 51
2.8 Characteristics of Urban Agriculture Practitioners in Africa 55
2.9 The South African Context 60
2.9.1 Apartheid 62
2.9.2 The Informal Sector in Contemporary South Africa 66
2.9.3 ‘Metro-bias’ in South African Urban Agriculture Research 69
2.9.4 Partnerships 71
2.9.5 State Responses: Urban Agriculture in Key Policy Documents 72
2.9.6 Prior Urban Agriculture Research in the Eastern Cape Province 76
2.10 Conclusion 78
CHAPTER 3: Methodology 79
Introduction 79
3.1 Methods 80
3.2 Combined Methodological Approach 85
3.3 Unfolding of the Research Schedule 88
3.4 Sample Design and Survey Population 92
3.5 Community-Based Intervention: Purpose, Sample Sites and Sampling Procedures 94
3.5.1 Grahamstown 94
3.5.2 Peddie 99
3.6 Conclusion 100
CHAPTER 4: Study Area 101
4.1 Grahamstown 101
4.1.1 History 103
4.1.2 Socio-Demographics 107
4.1.3 Potential or Current Organisational/Institutional Support for Urban Agriculture 110
4.2 Peddie 110
4.2.1 History 113
4.2.2 Socio-Demographics 117
4.2.3 Potential or Current Organisational/Institutional Support for Urban Agriculture 120
4.3 Conclusion 121
CHAPTER 5: Preliminary Research Results: Urban Agriculture in the Past and Present 123
5.1 Results from Archival and Historical Study: Grahamstown and Peddie 123
5.2 Grahamstown Ground-truthing and Informal Interview Results 127
5.2.1 Geographic Information System Representation of Urban Agriculture in Grahamstown 129
5.2.2 Urban Agriculture and Rhini’s Urban Eco-System 132
5.3 Peddie Ground-truthing and Informal Interview Results 134
5.3.1 Peddie: General Population and Urban Agriculture Data 134
5.3.2 Geographic Information System Representation of Urban Agriculture in Peddie 135
5.3.3 Urban Agriculture and Peddie’s Urban Eco-System 138
5.4 The Role of the Market: Present and Future 139
5.5 Attitudes & Perceptions of Urban Agriculture 140
5.6 Urban Agriculture and the Household Economy 142
5.7 Conclusion 142
CHAPTER 6: Data Results, Analysis & Synthesis 145
6.1 Grahamstown 146
6.2. Respondent Variables: Rhini 147
6.3 Home Gardens 151
6.4 Livestock 153
6.5 Conclusion: Grahamstown Urban Agriculture 154
6.6 Respondent Variables: Peddie 157
6.7 Home Gardens 159
6.8 Livestock 161
6.9 Conclusion: Peddie Urban Agriculture 162
6.10 Synthesis of Characteristics of Eastern Cape Urban Agriculturalists 164
6.11 Poverty Income and Household Size: Nationwide 166
6.12 Significance of Urban Agriculture 169
6.13 Non-urban Agriculture Households 170
6.14 Partnerships 172
6.15 Community-Based Intervention 173
6.15.1 Grahamstown: Water and Soil Analysis 174
6.15.2 Peddie: Market Access 177
6.16 Conclusion: Urban Agriculture Characteristics 181
CHAPTER 7: Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture in Selected Urban Centres in the Eastern Cape: Final Comparisons, Conclusions and Recommendations 185
7.1 Urban Agriculture Similarities between the Eastern Cape and other African Case Studies 186
7.2 Final Comparisons 190
7.3 Theoretical & Methodological Contribution 193
7.4 Research Summary 197
7.5 Recommendations for Urban Planners and for Further Research 202
7.6 Conclusions 206
7.7 Final Synopsis of Research Findings 208
Web Sources 228
Personal Communications 242
APPENDIX 1: Community-Based Intervention 245
Introduction 245
1.1 Details of the Grahamstown Water Analysis Data 245
1.2 Peddie Intervention: The Masizame Community Garden Project: Origins 250
APPENDIX 2: Questionnaire Survey (Template) 255
APPENDIX 3: Vegetation of Grahamstown & Peddie 259