Determinants, Consequences and Perspectives of Land Reform Politics in Newly Industrializing Countries

A Comparison of the Indian and the South African Case

by David Betge (Author)
©2017 Thesis 419 Pages


This comparative case study addresses central determinants of inequalities that persist in India and South Africa. The particular focus of the study is on programs aiming at the redistribution of land to the landless poor and these programs’ consequences. The central question is why extreme inequalities persist despite land redistribution programs that have been in place for decades and what role different actors and dominant ideas play in this. Beyond this empirical focus, the study transcends theoretical cleavages in the social sciences by following the basic ideas of Giddens’ Structurational Theory. An actor-centred approach is chosen as the primary tool for analysis. It is complemented with a structurational approach to discourse analysis for a detailed analysis of actors’ preferences.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Tables and Figures
  • Acknowledgements
  • Acronyms and Abbreviations
  • Abstract
  • Chapter One: Problem definition and research agenda
  • 1.1. Review of the literature
  • 1.1.1. Literature on the South African land reforms
  • 1.1.2. Literature on the Indian Land Reforms
  • 1.1.3. Gaps and ambiguities in the literature – and how to address them
  • 1.2. Walking beyond the well-trodden path: Objectives and relevance
  • 1.2.1. Notable differences between the cases
  • 1.2.2. Research questions and scope of the study
  • 1.3. Conclusion
  • Chapter Two: Theoretical and methodological framework
  • 2.1. Outline of the theoretical framework
  • 2.2. Enhancing the depth of the analysis
  • 2.3. Hypotheses
  • 2.4. Research methods
  • 2.4.1. Case study and case comparison
  • 2.4.2. Structurational Discourse Analysis
  • 2.4.3. Semi-structured expert and actor interviews
  • 2.4.4. How to corroborate the hypotheses
  • 2.5. Conclusion: Benefits and restrictions of the approach
  • Chapter Three: The interdependence of actors and structures: Analysing actors, preferences, institutions and actor constellations for the South African case
  • 3.1. Missed opportunities - The South African land reforms
  • 3.2. A dual agrarian structure? The structural setting of South African agriculture
  • 3.3. Setting the agenda - Actors’ preferences and objectives
  • 3.3.1. Liberal opposition - The Democratic Alliance
  • 3.3.2. Radical opposition - The Economic Freedom Fighters
  • 3.3.3. Organised agricultural business
  • 3.3.4. The main land reform target groups
  • 3.3.5. The ANC
  • 3.3.6. The Government
  • 3.4. Agricultural development and the centrality of food security: Analysis of the dominant discourse
  • 3.5. An unlikely alliance? Actor constellations and interactions
  • 3.6. Conclusion
  • Chapter Four: Actors and structures in the Indian case
  • 4.1. Benami transfers and stagnation: History and status of the Indian land reforms
  • 4.2. From Socialism to state centred Capitalism? The context of Indian agriculture
  • 4.3. Preferences of central actors
  • 4.3.1. Liberal or radical? The Bharatiya Janata Party
  • 4.3.2. Organised agricultural business
  • 4.3.3. The main land reform target groups
  • 4.3.4. The Indian National Congress
  • 4.3.5. The Government
  • 4.4. Growth for food security: The dominant discourse on land reforms
  • 4.5. Actor constellations and interactions on the national level
  • 4.6. Conclusion
  • Chapter Five: The meta-institutional setting
  • 5.1. Food Security vs. Food Sovereignty: The dominant paradigms on agriculture and land reforms on the international level
  • 5.2. Land reforms for the market – through the market
  • 5.3. Creating a level playing field? Rules and effects of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture
  • 5.4. India and South Africa within the meta-institutional setting
  • 5.4.1. South Africa’s agricultural sector in a global context
  • 5.4.2. Actors’ preferences and the international level in South Africa
  • 5.4.3. India’s agricultural sector in a global context
  • 5.4.4. Actors’ preferences and the international level in India
  • 5.5. Conclusion
  • Chapter Six: Analysing land related interactions on the ground in South Africa
  • 6.1. The Western Cape: Institutional setting
  • 6.1.1. Ground level case one: The Dwars River Valley
  • 6.1.2. Within-case analysis
  • 6.1.3. Ground level case two: The Bergrivier Farmers
  • 6.1.4. Within-case analysis
  • 6.1.5. Cross-case analysis
  • 6.2. The Eastern Cape: Institutional setting
  • 6.2.1. Ground level case three: The Sewefontein Boerdery Trust
  • 6.2.2. Within-case analysis
  • 6.2.3. Ground level case four: The Magwa tea venture
  • 6.2.4. Within-case analysis
  • 6.2.5. Cross-case analysis
  • 6.3. Conclusion: Comparing Eastern Cape and Western Cape
  • Chapter Seven: Analysing land related interactions on the ground in India
  • 7.1. Gujarat: Institutional setting
  • 7.1.1. Ground level case five: Lakhabhai Natubhai’s land dispossession
  • 7.1.2. Within-case analysis
  • 7.1.3. Ground level case six: Navsarjan’s struggles for land
  • 7.1.4. Within-case analysis
  • 7.1.5. Ground-level case seven: Large-scale dispossessions in Gujarat - The Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary
  • 7.1.6. Within-case analysis
  • 7.1.7. Cross-case analysis
  • 7.2. Andhra Pradesh: Institutional setting
  • 7.2.1. Ground level case eight: The Yanadi land struggle
  • 7.2.2. Within-case analysis
  • 7.2.3. Ground level case nine: Large-scale dispossessions in AP - Polepally SEZ
  • 7.2.4. Within-case analysis
  • 7.2.5. Cross-case analysis
  • 7.3. Conclusion: Comparing Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh
  • Chapter Eight: Comparison of the cases
  • 8.1. The national institutional setting
  • 8.2. Actors, preferences and actor constellations on the national level
  • 8.3. Interactions on the ground
  • 8.4. The impact of the meta-institutional setting
  • 8.5. Conclusion
  • Chapter Nine: Conclusion of the study
  • 9.1. A Future for Land Reforms?
  • 9.2. Using Structuration Theory for empirical research
  • Bibliography
  • Appendices
  • Appendix 1: Discourse analysis with MaxQDA
  • Appendix 2: Primary sources for preference analysis South Africa
  • Appendix 2.1: Sources for preference analysis Western Cape
  • Appendix 2.2: Sources for preference analysis Eastern Cape
  • Appendix 3: Primary sources for preference analysis India
  • Appendix 3.1: Sources for preference analysis Gujarat
  • Appendix 3.2. Sources for regional discourse analysis Andhra Pradesh
  • Appendix 4: Codes for preference analysis
  • Appendix 5: Sources for the analysis of the meta-institutional level
  • Appendix 6: Codes for the analysis of the meta-institutional level
  • Series index

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List of Tables and Figures

Table 1: Main Analytical Perspectives on SA Land Reforms

Table 2: Main Analytical Perspectives on IND Land Reforms

Table 3: Central Issues for Further Research

Table 4: Relevant Differences between India and South Africa

Table 5: Actor Types

Figure 1: Central Elements of Aci

Table 6: Case Types and Purpose of Case Selection

Table 7: Framework for Analysing Preferences and (Inter)Actions

Table 8: Analysis of Meta-Institutional Influences on National LR

Table 9: Evaluation of Actors’ Preferences

Table 10: The Different Aspects of Food Security (SA)

Figure 2: Actor Preferences Regarding LR Options – Separate (SA)

Figure 3: Actor Preferences Regarding LR Options – Combined (SA)

Table 11: The Different Aspects of Food Security (IND)

Figure 4: Actor Preferences Regarding LR Options – Separate (IND)

Figure 5: Actor Preferences Regarding LR Options – Combined (IND)

Table 12: Food Security Versus Food Sovereignty

Table 13: Norms and Rules Relevant in the Context of LR

Table 14: Variations Between Western Cape and Eastern Cape

Table 15: Cross-Case Comparison (WESCAP)

Table 16: Cross-Case Comparison (EASCAP)

Table 17: Variations between Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh

Table 18: Cross-Case Comparison (GUJ)

Table 19: Cross-Case Comparison (AP) ← 11 | 12 →

Table 20: Central Similarities and Differences Between the Institutional Settings and Related Effects

Table 21: Differences and Similarities Regarding Actors’ Preferences and Observed Effects

Table 22: Overview of the Ground-Level Cases

Table 23: Similarities and Differences Relating to Interactions on the Ground

Table 24: Similarities and Differences Regarding The Impact of the International Setting

Table 25: Central Points for Revisions to the Hypotheses

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First of all, I want to thank my supervisors Dr. Salua Nour and Dr. Miranda Schreurs: Thank you for your support! Thank you also to all those people who supported me during my field research and without whom this study would not exist. Thanks goes in particular to Dan and Angela for their hospitality and friendship and to everyone at PLAAS for taking me in and giving me a place to work at and share my ideas. Thanks to all of my interview partners and everyone who was willing to share their opinions with me not knowing what I would make of it! Special thanks goes to everyone who looked at this thesis in its various stages and provided invaluable feedback: David Remmert (without you this would not have been worth reading), Ulrike Zeigermann, Urs Kind and Anne Landwehr. Thanks is also due to the people working at the Studienwerk of the Heinrich Boell Stiftung for great support and for helping to make these three years a wonderful learning experience also beyond the study itself. Last but certainly not least thanks goes to my family for your constant support. Anne thanks for being there!

The Heinrich Boell Foundation financially supported this work through a three-year fellowship.

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Acronyms and Abbreviations

AAF Anglo American Farms

ACF Advocacy Coalition Framework

ACI Actor Centred Institutionalism

AICC All-India Congress Committee

AIIC Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation

ANC African National Congress

ANCYL ANC Youth League

AP Andhra Pradesh

APRS Andhra Pradesh Rytu Sangham

APAWU Andhra Pradesh Agricultural Workers Union

BBBEE Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment

BEE Black Economic Empowerment

BLARF Baviaans Land And Agrarian Forum (SA)

BJP Bharatiya Janata Party (IND)

BSDI Boschendal Sustainable Development Initiative (SA)

COSATU Congress of South African Trade Unions

CFS Committee on World Food Security

CPA Communal Property Association

CSO Civil Society Organisation

DAC District Assessment Committee (SA)

DoLR Department of Land Resources (IND)

DRDLR Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (SA)

DU Delhi University/University of Delhi

EasCap Eastern Cape

ECARP Eastern Cape Agricultural Research Project

EFA Emerging Farmers’ Association

EU European Union

EFF Economic Freedom Fighters (SA)

ESTA Extension of Security of Tenure Act (SA)

FAO (UN) Food and Agricultural Organization

FDI Foreign Direct Investment

FSA Food Security Act (IND)

FYP Five-Year Plan

GDP Gross Domestic Product

GM Genetically Modified ← 15 | 16 →

GMO Genetically Modified Organism

GNU Government of National Unity (SA)

GoSA Government of South Africa

GoI Government of India

Gov Government

GSDP Gross State Domestic Product

GUJ Gujarat

ICAR Indian Council for Agricultural Research

IFI International Financial Institutions

IKP Indira Kranthi Pratham (IND)

IMF International Monetary Fund

INC Indian National Congress

IND India

IT Information Technology

JNU Jawaharlal Nehru University

KIA US–India Knowledge Initiative on Agricultural Education, Teaching, Research, Service, and Commercial Linkages

LA Land Acquisition

LARP Land and Agricultural Reform Programme (SA)

LARR Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill (IND)

LHA Lanquedoc Housing Association

LPM Landless People’s Movement (SA)

LR Land Reform

LRTG Land Reform Target Groups

LSCF Large-Scale Commercial Farming

MFI Micro Finance Institution

MLAR Market-Led Agrarian Reform

MoCI Ministry of Commerce and Industry (IND)

MoA Ministry of Agriculture

MoRD Ministry of Rural Development (IND)

MSP Minimum Support Price

NDC National Development Council (IND)

NEP New Economic Policy (IND)

NGO Non-Governmental Organization

NRRP National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy (IND)

OBC Other Backward Castes

OrgAgr Organised Agriculture

RSS Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (IND) ← 16 | 17 →

RDP Reconstruction and Development Programme (SA)

PC Planning Commission (of India)

PMG Parliamentary Monitoring Group (SA)

SA South Africa

SAC Strategic Action Capacity/Capacity for Strategic Action

SC Scheduled Caste(s)

SCLC Southern Cape Land Committee (SA)

SDA Structurational Discourse Analysis

SDI Slum/Shack Dwellers International

SDI Spatial Development Initiative

SEZ Special Economic Zone

ST Scheduled Tribe(s)

ST Structuration Theory/Theory of Structuration

TC Thematic Code

TNC Transnational Corporation

TPDS Targeted Public Distribution System (IND)

UN United Nations

US United States

USD US Dollar

VC Valuation Code

VGGT Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure

WB World Bank

WesCap Western Cape

WTO World Trade Organization

WWFNI World Wide Fund for Nature India

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This dissertation addresses central determinants of extreme inequalities that persist in India and South Africa, in particular regarding access to agricultural land, despite land redistribution programmes that have been in place for decades. The study strives to transcend orthodox theoretical cleavages in the social sciences by following the basic ideas of Structurational Theory. It fills gaps in the literature on the South African and Indian land reforms by applying fresh analytical perspectives to the cases and through systematically comparing different levels of analysis. The focus of the analysis lies on programmes aiming at the redistribution of agricultural land to the landless poor and the consequences of land distribution politics for the landless. While land reforms are active programmes in both India and South Africa, they do not effectively address the needs of marginalized landless people. The literature on the two reform programmes has come up with divergent explanations for these failures, and leaves important questions unanswered and recent developments unexplained. A comparative case study approach, understanding both countries as most-different cases, serves as the basic analytical setting. The approach of Actor Centered Institutionalism (ACI) is chosen as the primary tool for analysing the cases. It is complemented with a structurational approach to discourse analysis that allows for a detailed analysis of actors’ preferences. Three hypotheses are developed based on the literature on the two cases, as well as more general theoretical literature, and gaps in the existing analyses. These hypotheses postulate mechanisms explaining the observed outcomes in the context of the assumed mutual influence of actors and structures. The hypotheses are corroborated through analyses of sub-national cases that provide a range of diverse observations within the country-level cases. The results of the study show that the institutional setting in both countries is structured by rules that limit the agency of primary land reform target groups, norms that centre around economic growth and food security, and beliefs anchored in rationalist conceptions of development, resulting in practices which sustain power asymmetries between the major land reform target groups and third parties. The actor constellations in both cases are essentially divided into two camps: the first arguing for a fundamentally different, agency-oriented approach to land reforms and agricultural development; and the second preferring the status quo, or an increased alignment of land reforms with growth and development objectives which, to some, means ending land redistribution. The former camp consists of actors with limited resources and rather low capacities ← 19 | 20 → for strategic action while the latter has generally strong strategic action capacities and resources. This results in inadequate outcomes of land reforms from a justice and welfare perspective. In essence, the land reforms fail to address inequalities because they are rooted in high modernist ideas for development resulting from central actors’ preferences for economic growth and food security. Central actors increasingly align their preferences regarding such approaches because their actions and underlying beliefs are reinforced by positive returns as well as by high costs assumed to be associated with exiting the chosen path. Both are inextricably linked with the international setting which increases the returns from a neoliberal development model for particular actors, as well as the costs associated with acting against it. The primary target groups of land reforms generally lack the resources and capacities for strategic action to utilize or change the land reform policies to their advantage in this context.

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Chapter One: Problem definition and research agenda

Extreme inequalities persist in India and South Africa regarding access to agricultural land, despite land redistribution programmes that have been in place for decades. While land reforms are active programmes in both India and South Africa, they do not effectively address the needs of the landless (cf. e.g. Aliber and Cousins 2013, Ministry of Rural Development 2009). Literature on the two reform programmes has come up with diverging explanations for these failures and leaves important questions unanswered and recent developments unexplained. This study investigates the land reform programmes in South Africa and India focussing on the determinants producing prevailing inequalities in the rural areas, especially regarding access to agricultural land and the consequences of land distribution politics for the landless. The study sheds light on the current processes and future perspectives of land reforms in India and South Africa and reveals common reasons for persisting inequalities in both countries.

As is argued in this study, and as the next sections demonstrate in more detail, India and South Africa present two structurally different cases of land reforms yet with very similar objectives and very similar outcomes. In both cases, a key objective of the land reforms was the large-scale redistribution of land in order to reduce social and economic inequalities. These objectives were to be achieved by applying very different mechanisms: in South Africa through a market-based approach, and in India through land ceilings and expropriations. Both cases have similar outcomes: persisting extreme inequalities regarding access to land, and social and economic marginalisation of the landless in rural areas even after decades of land reform, and the recognition that land reforms have widely failed. The literature on the two cases suggests a diverse range of reasons for these outcomes (sections 1.1.1 and 1.1.2), which means that there are either different mechanisms producing the same outcome, or that there is a mediating variable (or variables), which occurs in both cases but has been missed, or at least not been recognized as central so far. The central question regarding the two cases is therefore: why did they end up with such a similar outcome? In other words: what are they cases of other than failed land reforms?


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (September)
Land rights Food Security Discourse Institutionalism Sustainability Case Study
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 419 pp., 5 b/w ill., 25 b/w tables

Biographical notes

David Betge (Author)

David Betge studied Political Science at the Freie Universität Berlin. He graduated with a study on the South African land reforms and finished his doctorate at the Otto Suhr Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin.


Title: Determinants, Consequences and Perspectives of Land Reform Politics in Newly Industrializing Countries