Last month’s issue of the Journal of Southern African Studies was a special edition on the sugar sector.
The papers included analyse the sugar industry in seven Southern African countries and as well as dealing with a range of political-economy issues such as labour relations, international trade, gender issues, migration, socio-economic differentiation and the role of customary and modern institutions in the governance of the sector. It also places the industry firmly within the broader environmental parameters that determine its overall productivity, profitability and sustainability. See here for a summary of the impact of the current drought on the region.
Dr Alan Terry (IWSN/UWE) and Mike Ogg’s paper sets out the key role that extending irrigation has played in enabling former rain-fed semi-subsistence farmers to create new co-operative farms on customary tenured Swazi-Nation-Land, in many cases, not only raising incomes substantially, but also improving food security. The paper combines over 20 years of research with the Swazi sugar industry with Mike’s continued role supporting small-scale subsistence farmers in their transition to a more commercial pathway, underpinned by irrigation, not only in Swaziland, but throughout the wider region. The paper outlines the many challenges that remain, including survival in a more open international market with the demise of the EU Sugar Protocol, the need for long-term reinvestment by farmers to maintain the productivity of their farms and the tensions that have arisen between newly enriched farmers and their immediate neighbours who have seen little trickle-down of wealth and income within communities. The paper also raises some issues relating to the need to share water at an international level and therefore covers a number of issues of concern to the wider IWSN network and partners.