Mission: to explore the social and institutional dimensions of economic development and the interaction between human society and the natural world. Focus areas include: winners and losers in South African economic growth; and the interplay between ecological and economic concerns.
The Sustainable Societies initiative comprises two main projects:
Relevant CSSR working papers:
- Labour, Wages and Minimum Wage Compliance in the Breërivier Valley Six Months after the Introduction of Minimum Wages
- Wages and wage elasticities for wine and table grapes in South Africa
- Farmers’ views of landscape initiatives: The case of the Agulhas Plain, CFR
- Nature-based tourism in the Agulhas Plain: A vehicle for integrated biodiversity conservation and sustainable economic development
The Karoo Project
Sheep farmers blame declining agricultural productivity on jackal (and to a lesser extent rooikat) predation. They argue that jackals are breeding in an uncontrolled manner in nature reserves, on unoccupied farms and farms owned by ‘life-style’ or ‘weekend’ farmers who in their view do not farm at all. Sheep farmers use a range of methods to control the jackals some of which, notably leg traps and poison bait potentially harm other wildlife (e.g. bat-eared foxes and aardvarks). This has resulted in conflict between farmers and environmentalists, a clash of opinions that has reverberated to provincial policy level. The Western Cape Department of Agriculture (Land Affairs) has been assisting the farmers with a fencing project and various controversial jackal eradication efforts – whereas the Department of Environmental Affairs favours targeted and preventative methods like the employment of shepherds and dogs to protect sheep. There is a lot of heat in this debate, but little hard evidence on the causes of low weaning rates or the efficacy of alternative protection (i.e. production) systems.
We shall be collecting systematic data on both environmental and human aspects of sheep-farming. This includes rural labour markets, management practices, grazing quality and the collection of economic and predator management histories from farms in a 100,000 hectare study site near Liangsburg. We also hope to collect data on biodiversity using remote camera traps so as to understand the ecology within which sheep farming and jackal predation takes place. We are being assisted in this respect by Justin O’Riain in the Department of Zoology at UCT.
Our goal is to generate the data and analysis that will facilitate the introduction of production (and livestock protection) systems that reconcile commercial farmers’ concern with profitability with conservationists’ concern with biodiverse and healthy ecosystems. We anticipate that our study of sheep-farming and jackals will extend in future to the study of other predator-human conflicts, notably leopards and the rooikat.
Images of jackal and rooikat caught by a remote camera trap.
The Newcastle Project
South Africa’s labour-market institutions were originally designed to protect white workers. Today, they protect the wages of all employed ‘insiders’ – but in a context where little, if any, support is provided to unemployed ‘outsiders’. This creates social problems pertaining to poverty and alienation, but has also given rise to new challenges to the legitimacy of labour-market institutions. For example, small employers and their workers in the clothing industry in Newcastle (KwaZulu-Natal) have contested the extension of collective agreements to non-parties – with important implications for the future of inclusive labour-intensive growth.
These social and political aspects of labour-market institutions and unemployment are neglected areas of research. This focus area of the Sustainable Societies initiative seeks to address this lacuna – notably by researching different understandings of the role of labour legislation in shaping the growth path, the emerging contestation of aspects of the legislation, and the social contours and consequences of unemployment. Our objective is to combine quantitative and qualitative research methods.
Relevant recent CSSR working papers: