n Agrekon - South African agricultural R&D : policies and public institutions, 1880 - 2007

Volume 50, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0303-1853
  • E-ISSN: 2078-0400
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In South Africa, government engagement in agricultural R&D and associated technical support services dates back to at least the 1880s. Over the subsequent century and more, the growth in public support for agricultural R&D, extension and technical services has waxed and waned and the policies and public institutions directed at them have changed markedly. In the early 20th century the focus was on tapping technologies and expertise from other countries. Subsequent changes in agricultural R&D mirrored broader agricultural and economy-wide policy thrusts. The period through to the Second World War saw an expansion of the area farmed, mostly involving white farmers. During the decades immediately following the war, public R&D mainly supported intensification and promoted technological change by large commercial operators. The early 1980s heralded large structural changes in agriculture and the economy generally and policies were enacted to redistribute land to black farmers, with associated shifts in the focus of public research and extension services. The emphasis given to regional versus more centralised cum national research and extension agencies has changed dramatically as well over the decades. As food security and associated agricultural productivity concerns resurface, the R&D policies and institutions supporting agriculture are likely to be revisited, hopefully with an eye to the long-run nature and ramifications for agricultural R&D.

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