Planning for sustainable livelihood development in the context of rural South Africa: A micro-level approach


  • Menini Gibbens North-West University, South Africa
  • Carel Schoeman North-West University, South Africa


rural development, rural planning, micro-level planning, sustainable development, sustainable rural livelihoods


In South Africa, different spheres of government (national, provincial and municipal) have different responsibilities with respect to rural planning and development. Rural development strategies, however, are predominately developed by national and provincial government (centralised planning) such as, for example, the 2009 Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP) and the 2018 draft National Spatial Development Framework (NSDF). These efforts from different spheres of the South African government are nevertheless still not having the desired effect in the development of sustainable rural livelihoods, according to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, similar to policies and efforts to implement them elsewhere in Africa. In addition to the appropriate planning and implemen-tation scale, the spatial dimension of rural livelihood within the South African context also requires a specific understanding of the extreme differentiation of areas within ‘rural South Africa’. Research regarding the impact of planning at village level (micro-level), as presented in this article, may provide valuable insights for realising sustainable rural livelihoods. This article aims, through an analysis of relevant literature, to examine the sustainable develop-ment discourse, in general, while addressing sustainable rural livelihoods and micro-level planning, in particular. The main research question concerns the way in which micro-level planning can contribute to ensuring sustainable rural livelihoods in South Africa. The article also discusses the complexity of ‘rural’ space and its understanding in the development planning framework of South Africa, providing the spatial context for sustainable rural livelihoods. Examples of micro-level planning approaches in Africa and South Africa are discussed to elucidate their applicability to sustainable rural livelihood development in South Africa. In conclusion, the analysis reveals that, while centralist policies are pursued in South Africa to support sustainable rural development, the actual realisation of sustainable rural livelihoods may well require micro-level development planning strategies. The implication for academics, planning professionals and politicians is that the support and development of microlevel sustainable rural livelihood planning should be pursued to attain the goals of the National Development Plan (2012) of eliminating poverty and to encourage citizens to be active in their own development. 


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2020-06-29 — Updated on 2020-06-30