Background

 

Limpopo Province covers an area of 12,46 million hectares and these accounts for 10,2 % of the total area of the Republic of South Africa. The Province is endowed with abundant agricultural resources and it is one of the country's prime agricultural regions noted for the production of livestock, fruits and vegetables, cereals and tea.


Three distinct climatic regions can be identified in the province. These are the:

  1. Lowveld (arid and semi-arid) regions
  2. Middle veldt, highveld, semi-arid region
  3. Escarpment region having sub-humid climate with rainfall in excess of 700 mm per annum.

The most limiting resource in the province is water. Irrigation is needed for about 137,000 hectares of which 58,000 hectares are in the hands of black small-scale farmers.

 

These varied climates allows Limpopo Province to produce a wide variety of agricultural produce ranging from tropical fruits such as banana, mangoes to cereals such as maize, wheat and vegetables such as tomatoes, onion and potatoes. Dualism is declining due to Land reform outcomes and involvement of Black entrepreneurs in the agribusiness value chain. However, there are still two distinct types of agricultural production systems:

1. the large scale commercial farming system and
2. the small holder farming system.

These two systems have evolved as a result of past policies of the previous governments under the apartheid regime. The outcomes of Land reform and the acquisition of interests by Black entrepreneurs in agribusiness will over time remove this anomaly.

White farmers who practice large scale farming system using the most advanced production technology occupy approximately 70% of the total land area. These commercial farmers operate large farms, which are well organized and situated on prime land. At present, there are approximately 5,000 commercial farming units in Limpopo Province (Statistics South Africa: 2002).

The smallholder farms are located mostly in the former homeland areas and they cover approximately 30% of the provincial land surface area. Farming under the smallholder systems is characterized by low level of production technology and small size of farm holding of approximately 1,5 hectares per farmer; with production primarily for subsistence and little marketable surplus.

It has been estimated that there are approximately 303,000 smallholder farmers in Limpopo Province by 2000 (Statistics South Africa: 2002). Women constitute 80% of these smallholder farmers.

Given the fact that 89% of the population of Limpopo Province is classified as rural, agriculture plays a major role in the economic development of rural areas of the province.

The contribution of agriculture to the economy of Limpopo Province has been summarized in DBSA Report (1994). In this report, agriculture was estimated to have contributed 15,7% of the gross geographic product (GGP) of the province for 1991 period. The report has also revealed that agriculture was second only to government (public or community services), which made the highest contribution for that period.

In terms of employment, the DBSA report reveals that agriculture employed 17,5% of the economically active population( in the commercial farming sub-sector) and a further 25% in the informal or subsistence smallholder farming sub-sector, thus making agriculture the most important provider of employment in the Limpopo Province.

The DBSA report also reveals the impact of the multiplier effect of the agricultural sector on the economy and concluded that only agriculture recorded a comparative advantage as an economic sector within the province.

Agriculture is interrelated to most of the other sectors of Limpopo economy. Manufacturing contributes about 27% to final agriculture output (that is, some agricultural output requires input from manufacturing sector). On the other hand, about 15% of final agricultural output is used as input in the manufacturing process to produce final manufactured products.

Other sectors such as trade, contributes about 5% and transport 3%, financial business about 1% to the value of final agricultural output. These inter-sectoral linkages reveal the importance of agriculture to other sectors of the Limpopo economy. The agricultural sector encompasses not only the primary agricultural production but the pre-input and input sectors as well as financial sectors, marketing sectors and agro-processing (manufacturing) sectors.

Limpopo Province has diverse soils, which vary in productivity. The soils are also vulnerable to various forms of degradation (physical, chemical and biological) and hence appropriate management strategies are critical if productivity of the soils is to be improved and sustained.

Based on the characteristics of the soils, climate and topography, the land capacity categorization constitute the following proportions:

1. 37,7% suitable for arable farming
2. 50,1% suitable for grazing
3. 12,2% suitable for wildlife.

The total land area of the province is 11,960,600 hectares of which 88,2 % (10,548,290 ha) constitute farmland. Of the total farmland, 14,7 and 14% constitutes potential arable land in developing agriculture in the former homeland and commercial agriculture respectively. Dry land cultivation on a commercial basis is only possible on the Springbok flats. Irrigate farming is predominant in the province.

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