CfP POLLEN22: Deagrarianisation: what are the underlying reasons and effects with focus on livelihoods, poverty reduction and climate change

Session organizers:

Klara Fischer, Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Sheona Shackleton, African Climate & Development Initiative, University of Cape Town
Flora Hajdu, Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Across several parts of the world, there is evidence that smallholder farmers are ceasing farming (Hebinck, 2018, Bryceson, 2019, Bilewicz and Bukraba‐Rylska, 2021, Fibæk, 2021, Majumdar, 2020). For example, over half a million households in South Africa’s communal areas (former homelands) disengaged from farming between 2011 and 2016 (Statistics South Africa1); a loss of one in five crop farming households. Going beyond South Africa, deagrarianisation and depesantisation is seen across the Global North and South, stimulated by various drivers and with different consequences for farmers and societies (Hebinck, 2018, Majumdar, 2020, Bilewicz and Bukraba‐Rylska, 2021, Mamonova et al., 2020, Adaman et al., 2018). Abandonment of farming does not necessarily happen because better opportunities arise, nor necessarily because farming is not valued as important by those abandoning it. Deagrarianisation of South Africa’s former homelands is happening in a situation with high joblessness and widespread food insecurity (Hajdu et al., 2020, Fischer and Hajdu, 2015). At the same time, research shows that a currently unplanted field does not mean that it is abandoned or not valued by its owners (Ferguson, 2013).

A combination of ecological, political and economic drivers have been found to stimulate deagrarianisation. New risks associated with climate change are one disincentive for smallholder cropping. More erratic and extreme rainfall, floods, high temperatures and droughts, as well as changes in the start and end of rainy season makes cultivation more difficult (Terra et al., 2012, Brown et al., 2019, Moore et al., 2017). In South Africa, the trend of reduced cultivation has also been linked to many other drivers including access to appropriate and affordable seed, changing urban‐rural linkages,
reductions in the flow of remittances, lack of (or inappropriate) government support, the erosion of collective work parties, changes in livestock ownership and herding practices, soil fertility loss, lack of interest in farming from the younger generation, as well as lack of profitability and high risks farming (Hebinck et al., 2018, Fischer and Hajdu, 2015, Hajdu et al., 2020, Shackleton et al., 2019, Shackleton and Hebinck, 2018). Global trends of the upscaling of farming, concentration of the seed sector, land grabbing, and the supermarketisation of our food systems are other important drivers with impact within and beyond South Africa (van der Ploeg et al., 2015, McMichael, 2009, Hebinck, 2018, Fischer, 2021, Adaman et al., 2018, Mamonova et al., 2020).

In this session, we invite presentations from across the Global South and North to discuss how we might understand trends variously discussed as deagrarianisation and depesantisation, how and why trends differ across contexts, and what lessons we might learn from cross‐context comparison. We will present and discuss research and build new networks ‐ forging a better understanding of the reasons behind and the effects of deagrarianisation across contexts, as well as how smallholder agriculture might be revitalized and food security and sovereignty supported.

We invite paper presentations based on empirical studies of deagrarianisation and depesantisation across the Global South and North. If you want to present a paper in our session, please send your abstract to no later than December 1, 2021. The abstract should be max 250 words (excluding title and author info). If we have to make a selection amongst submitted abstracts we will select abstracts based on 1) the academic quality of the abstract, and 2) our aim of getting a diverse session in terms of presenters and empirical cases presented across the Global South and North. We will submit our final proposal for a paper session, including selected presentations, in the POLLEN portal on December 10, 2021.


ADAMAN, F., ARSEL, M. & AKBULUT, B. 2018. Neoliberal developmentalism, authoritarian populism, and extractivism in the countryside: the Soma mining disaster in Turkey. Critical Agrarian Studies, 154.

BILEWICZ, A. & BUKRABA‐RYLSKA, I. 2021. Deagrarianization in the making: The decline of family farming in central Poland, its roots and social consequences. Journal of Rural Studies.

BROWN, P. R., AFROZ, S., CHIALUE, L., CHIRANJEEVI, T., EL, S., GRÜNBÜHEL, C. M., KHAN, I., PITKIN, C., REDDY, V. R. & ROTH, C. H. 2019. Constraints to the capacity of smallholder farming households to adapt to climate change in South and Southeast Asia. Climate and Development, 11, 383‐400.

BRYCESON, D. F. 2019. Gender and generational patterns of African deagrarianization: Evolving labour and land allocation in smallholder peasant household farming, 1980–2015. World Development, 113, 60‐72.

FERGUSON, J. 2013. How to do things with land: A distributive perspective on rural livelihoods in Southern Africa. Journal of Agrarian Change, 13, 166‐174.

FIBÆK, M. M. 2021. Rural differentiation and rural change: Microlevel evidence from Kenya. Journal of Agrarian Change.

FISCHER, K. 2021. Why Africa’s New Green Revolution is failing–Maize as a commodity and anti‐commodity in South Africa. Geoforum.

FISCHER, K. & HAJDU, F. 2015. Does raising maize yields lead to poverty reduction? A case study of the Massive Food Production Programme in South Africa. Land Use Policy, 46, 304‐313.

HAJDU, F., NEVES, D. & GRANLUND, S. 2020. Changing Livelihoods in rural eastern cape, South Africa (2002–2016): diminishing employment and expanding social protection. Journal of Southern African Studies, 46, 743‐772.

HEBINCK, P. 2018. De‐/re‐agrarianisation: Global perspectives. Journal of Rural Studies, 61, 227‐235.

HEBINCK, P., MTATI, N. & SHACKLETON, C. 2018. More than just fields: Reframing deagrarianisation in landscapes and livelihoods. Journal of rural studies, 61, 323‐334.

MAJUMDAR, K. 2020. Rural Transformation in India: Deagrarianization and the Transition from a Farming to Non‐farming Economy. Journal of Developing Societies, 36, 182‐205.

MAMONOVA, N., FRANQUESA, J. & BROOKS, S. 2020. ‘Actually existing’right‐wing populism in rural Europe: insights from eastern Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and Ukraine. Critical Agrarian Studies, 420.

MCMICHAEL, P. 2009. A Food Regime Analysis of the ‘World Food Crisis’. Agriculture and Human Values, 26, 281‐295.

MOORE, F. C., BALDOS, U., HERTEL, T. & DIAZ, D. 2017. New science of climate change impacts on agriculture implies higher social cost of carbon. Nature Communications, 8, 1607.

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