Growing from the Roots: Deep Development in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Authors: Jules Reynolds*, , Michael Bell, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Leah Potter-Weight, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Valerie Stull, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Mpumelelo Ncwadi, Indwe Trust, Liza Lightfoot, KidLinks World
Topics: Africa, Development, Rural Geography
Keywords: South Africa, development, participation, agriculture, rural, livelihood
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Gallier A, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Development strategies based on large-scale, quick-return approaches often miss the mark in addressing local realities and needs. As an alternative to this paradigm, we offer a “deep” approach to agricultural and rural livelihood development in Africa, in which the primary objective is to thoroughly understand local contexts and needs through slow, intensive research and interaction in order to help activate from within. Conventional development typically operates like industrial annual cropping, with fast-acting economic fertilization that soon washes away, leaving a rutted and scarred cultural and ecological landscape. Projects typically operate on time scales of 1 to 3 years. Deep development, in contrast, proceeds through perennialization, with the expectation that the fruits may be some years in the future. And it proceeds from the roots a community has long established. As well, like perennial agriculture, deep development entails the promise of partners and allies to return, again and again. We describe the LAND (Livelihood, Agricultural, Nutrition, and Development) Project’s work in the village of Manzimdaka in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province, and the six years of relationship building, active listening, and progress augmented by the willingness to try new ideas. Despite deep development’s necessarily slow pace and permission for mistakes - or rather, because of it - we argue that this approach results in strategies that grow from the roots of the community for enduring, participatory, and just development.

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