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Marketing constraints faced by communal farmers in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa : a case study of transaction costs.

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Farmers engaged in small-scale agriculture in Africa generally have limited access to factors of production, credit and information. Empirical studies throughout the African continent have shown the extent to which high transaction costs constrain or prevent access to information and markets, especially for small-scale farmers. Despite these constraints, farmers in two communal areas of KwaZulu-Natal (Impendle and Swayimana) have managed to produce food for both own consumption and marketing. This study draws heavily on the New Institutional Economics, and particularly Transaction Cost Economics, which have demonstrated the important role of transaction costs in constraining economic activity, and of institutions developed to lower these costs. Transaction costs are the costs of exchange, including costs of information, negotiation, monitoring, coordination and enforcement of contracts. These costs can be implicit or explicit. The main objective of the study is to assess marketing constraints faced by communal farmers in the Impendle and Swayimana regions of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Data were drawn from random sample of 120 household heads in each of the regions. In Swayimana, data were collected in January and February 1999 whereas the survey in Impendle was undertaken in April and May 1999. The empirical analysis attempts to identify factors determining the quality and number of marketing channels used (i.e. depth in marketing methods), which in turn affect the level of income generated from crop sales by small-scale farmers in the two study areas. The identification of such factors might support initiatives to create a more viable small-scale farming sector in the communal areas of KwaZulu-Natal. A block-recursive model was formulated and estimated using ordinary least squares (OLS) and two-stage least squares (2SLS). Empirical analysis of the OLS equation suggested that transaction cost variables are important in explaining the choice of, and depth in, marketing methods. Results of the combined samples indicate that cooperation with neighbouring commercial farmers, and the interaction of distance and ownership of a vehicle were the most important factors in the choice of marketing methods. Other factors such as the age of household head, having a formal bank account and the area of allocated arable land, also significantly and positively influenced the depth of marketing methods. At a regional level, the same equation revealed that while COOP was the most important factor in Swayimana, DISTRA and ACC were the main determinants in Impendle. The 2SLS regression analysis indicated that greater depth in marketing methods, which reflects lower transaction costs faced by growers, has a strong and positive impact on the level of crop income generated; i.e. the lower the transaction costs faced, the greater is the depth in marketing methods, and the higher the level of crop income. The results imply that formal marketing channels are associated with low transaction costs and higher levels of crop income. The area of cultivated arable land and income from non-agricultural activities were the other two important determinants of crop income. It is concluded that accessibility to formal market outlets is limited by considerable farm-to-market distance, poor infrastructure (roads, telecommunications), and inadequate transportation. Recommendations give due consideration to the development of a better physical and institutional infrastructure which would effectively link these production areas to market centres and improve market knowledge by providing relevant market information and farming skills.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2002.


Farms, Small--KwaZulu-Natal., Farmers--KwaZulu-Natal., Farm produce--KwaZulu-Natal--Marketing., Agriculture--Economic aspects--KwaZulu-Natal., Theses--Agricultural economics.