Current SSU Projects:
- The Karoo Project
- The Newcastle Project
- Households, the state and poverty
- 'Growing up' after apartheid
The Karoo Project
Sheep farmers blame declining agricultural productivity on jackal (and to a lesser extent rooikat) predation. They argue that jackals are breeding in an uncontrolled manner in nature reserves, on unoccupied farms and farms owned by ‘life-style’ or ‘weekend’ farmers who in their view do not farm at all. Sheep farmers use a range of methods to control the jackals some of which, notably leg traps and poison bait potentially harm other wildlife (e.g. bat-eared foxes and aardvarks). This has resulted in conflict between farmers and environmentalists, a clash of opinions that has reverberated to provincial policy level. The Western Cape Department of Agriculture (Land Affairs) has been assisting the farmers with a fencing project and various controversial jackal eradication efforts – whereas the Department of Environmental Affairs favours targeted and preventative methods like the employment of shepherds and dogs to protect sheep. There is a lot of heat in this debate, but little hard evidence on the causes of low weaning rates or the efficacy of alternative protection (i.e. production) systems.
We shall be collecting systematic data on both environmental and human aspects of sheep-farming. This includes rural labour markets, management practices, grazing quality and the collection of economic and predator management histories from farms in a 100,000 hectare study site near Liangsburg. We also hope to collect data on biodiversity using remote camera traps so as to understand the ecology within which sheep farming and jackal predation takes place. We are being assisted in this respect by Justin O’Riain in the Department of Zoology at UCT.
Our goal is to generate the data and analysis that will facilitate the introduction of production (and livestock protection) systems that reconcile commercial farmers’ concern with profitability with conservationists’ concern with biodiverse and healthy ecosystems. We anticipate that our study of sheep-farming and jackals will extend in future to the study of other predator-human conflicts, notably leopards and the rooikat.
Images of jackal and rooikat caught by a remote camera trap.
The Newcastle Project
South Africa’s wage-setting machinery were historically used to protect white workers. Today, they protect the wages of all employed ‘insiders’ – but in a context where little, if any, support is provided to unemployed ‘outsiders’. This creates social problems pertaining to poverty and alienation, but has also given rise to new challenges to the legitimacy of the bargaining council system itself. For example, small employers in the clothing industry in Newcastle (KwaZulu-Natal) are contesting the extension of collective agreements to them, and many firms and their workers are shifting to co-operative structures to avoid the labour legislation.
These social and political aspects of labour-market institutions and unemployment are neglected areas of research. This focus area of the Sustainable Societies initiative seeks to address this lacuna – notably by researching different understandings of the role of labour legislation in shaping the growth path, the emerging contestation of aspects of the legislation, and the social contours and consequences of unemployment. Our objective is to combine quantitative and qualitative research methods.
The lead project has been an investigation by Nicoli Nattrass and Jeremy Seekings into the economics of the clothing industry, and the Newcastle case in particular. They have produced three working papers, one on the bargaining council system, another on differentiation within the clothing industry and a third on the Newcastle case. They argue that the recent compliance drive by the National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Manufacturing Industry is threatening the existence of the last rump of labour-intensive industry in South Africa.
Recent news releating to this project:
- Job destruction! (29 Jan 2013)
- Debating job destruction in the clothing industry (1 Feb 2013)
- Controversy over clothing industry (1 March 2013)
Other relevant CSSR working papers:
- The Economy and Poverty in the Twentieth Century in South Africa
- Race, class and inequality in the South African city
- Socio-economic conditions, young men and violence in Cape Town
- The continuing politics of basic income in South Africa
In 2008-10 the SSU is running a research project into aspects of violence in Cape Town, with a grant from the European Union as part of a multi-centre study of the micro-foundations of violent conflict. Our particular focus is on what we called ‘everyday violence’ in South Africa. Whilst South Africa’s transition to democracy was eventually achieved with much lower levels of violence than in many other comparable cases, post-apartheid South Africa has seen very high rates of everyday violence, in the streets and at home. It is calculated that, in any year, between 1 in 25 and 1 in 40 adult men (aged 15-40) commits a very violent crime (murder, rape, armed robbery; this does not include common assault or attempted murder). It has been reported recently that more than one in four men admit to beating their partners. More than two out of three adolescents reports having witnessed someone being hurt or attacked in the neighbourhood, and one in two say that they know people in their neighbourhood who have committed criminal acts such as robbery and assault.
Our research began in early 2008 with a series of about fifty in-depth interviews conducted, under the direction of Lauren Kahn, in selected neighbourhoods in or around Khayelitsha, on people’s experiences of violence. The unanticipated occurrence of xenophobic violence in parts of Cape Town in May 2008 prompted a change of focus. In the second half of 2008, Adam Cooper studied why such violence occurred in Dunoon (in northern Cape Town) – whilst in some other, apparently similar neighbourhoods (such as Imizamo Yetho in Hout Bay) there was no similar violence. This qualitative research is being combined with the analysis of data from existing surveys (many of which, as is often the case, remain under-analysed) together with data from the 2009 Cape Area Study.
Households, the state and poverty
The SSU has conducted a range of research on the ways in which the state and private individuals respond to the challenges of poverty and illness in contemporary South Africa.
One arm of this research has focused on the effects of AIDS on household composition, and the effects of this on poverty and food security. This research – funded through a grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation – examined how people make decisions about where and with whom to live, and how these decisions are affected by AIDS-related morbidity and mortality. This resulted in a series of working papers (by Jeremy Seekings, Arianne de Lannoy and Rachel Bray, as well as by David Neves and Andries du Toit from PLAAS, at the University of the Western Cape), and a forthcoming edited volume.
A second arm focuses on public policy. Jeremy Seekings and Nicoli Nattrass completed a major study of public policy and poverty since 1994. Jeremy Seekings has also written extensively about the history of welfare state-building in South Africa in comparison to experiences in Latin America, the Caribbean and elsewhere in Africa. A new research project was initiated in mid-2009 on aspects of housing policy in the Western Cape.
A third arm of research examines norms around the public and private provision of support for the poor. Quantitative data have been collected through the Cape Area Study (in 2003, 2005 and 2009). A programme of qualitative research has been undertaken in 2008-09, including an extensive series of in-depth, semi-structured interviews with people living in Delft, Mfuleni and other selected neighbourhoods around Cape Town.
‘Growing up’ after apartheid
The combination of quantitative and qualitative research on childhood and adolescence has constituted one of the SSU’s primary activities since 2001. Quantitative data have been collected primarily through the Cape Area Panel Study (CAPS), which has followed the lives of a panel of adolescents since 2002 (as well as collecting extensive retrospective data on their lives prior to 2002). Complementary qualitative research has been conducted through a series of projects.
A book on childhood and adolescence in southern Cape Town is to be published in 2010 by the HSRC Press under the title of Growing Up in the New South Africa: Childhood and Adolescence in Post-Apartheid Cape Town. The book was co-authored by Rachel Bray and Jeremy Seekings together with three postgraduate students in the CSSR: Imke Gooskens, Lauren Kahn and Sue Moses. It combines detailed qualitative research with data from CAPS. Several papers were also published in a special issue of the journal Social Dynamics (vol.32, n.1) in 2006, and elsewhere.
A related project was conducted in collaboration with Professor Katherine Newman of the Sociology Department at Princeton University. Fifty in-depth, qualitative interviews were conducted in late 2007 and early 2008 with adolescents across Cape Town, focusing on the evolution of their aspirations and expectations, their experiences of school, their entry into the labour market, their perceptions of opportunities, and their attitudes towards and experiences of health. This project was managed by Ariane de Lannoy, who also completed in 2008 her PhD thesis on Educational Decision-making in an Era of AIDS.