Repository logo

Informality and urban agricultural participation in KwaZulu-Natal : 1993-2004.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The aim of the study was to find out whether or not engagement in urban agriculture for individuals and households is a response to a lack of formal wage employment in the post-apartheid period. This period is characterised by changes in the economy of South Africa which led to an observed increase in poverty and unemployment and an increase in informal employment. The study utilised both quantitative and qualitative methods to look at urban farming issues in KwaZulu-Natal. The quantitative data came from the KwaZulu-Natal Income Dynamics Surveys (KIDS), which carried out surveys in three waves spanning the period of democratic transition over a 10-year period in 1993, 1998 and 2004. This data was analysed using the statistical package STATA and employed regression modelling techniques to investigate the odds of engagement in urban agriculture, given certain individual and household characteristics, which is a particular nuance for this study. Because of its potential in food production and income generation, a smaller-scale qualitative farmer survey was undertaken in two different communities, comparing three different categories of home gardening, community gardening and market gardening in KwaZulu-Natal, using a semi-structured questionnaire. This component sought to document, in farmers’ own words, their experiences and practice of farming in an urban environment and gave in-depth insights about the motivation of the people involved, the types of food crops grown, and so on. Key informant interviews were conducted with a community of professionals for illuminating their perspectives on the practice of urban agriculture in KwaZulu-Natal. The key findings of the study are that urban agriculture is an activity that is undertaken by people seeking a survival strategy when their preferred activity (such as formal employment) is not available and it can be an activity undertaken by entrepreneurs for income generation. According to their main activity status, the types of people that engage in urban agriculture include those in wage employment and the unemployed, as well as the non-economically active. The contribution of agricultural income to total household income represents miniscule amounts, at an average of less than one percent. Regression modelling results, combining person level and household level variables, predicted more likely odds of farming for women, by a factor of 1.67. Increase in the number of years of education decreased the odds by 0.90 times. If a person lost employment, this increased their odds of engaging in urban agriculture by 1.23 times. People in the age group 36-46 years predicted the highest likelihood for participation in urban agriculture, by a factor of 2.54. Larger household size predicted odds more likely to engage while poor households also predicted odds more likely to engage, by a factor of 2.07 times. Urban agriculture is vastly heterogeneous and is undertaken by all income groups. It is a result of both push and pull factors. People engage in it neither as a survival strategy nor an entrepreneurial strategy only. It is, however, an activity in which the poor are disproportionately represented. The potential of urban agriculture to generate employment is linked to the nature of support received from government and non-governmental organisations.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2012.


Urban agriculture--KwaZulu-Natal., Unemployment--KwaZulu-Natal., Agriculture--Social aspects--KwaZulu-Natal., Theses--Development studies.