There are many interesting illustrations of the strong economic impact of commercial farmers in Southern Africa. For example, over just the last five years, tobacco production in Zimbabwe dropped dramatically from 240 to 60 million while at the same time in Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique tobacco production increased to record highs and spurred the development of tobacco processing infrastructure (The Economist 2004). The main driving force behind this change are the hundreds of (white) commercial farmers who lost their farms due to Zimbabwe's radical land policy but found facilitating governments in neighboring countries. Using the case of South Africa, this paper addresses the question of how commercial farmers, as a key economic resource, can play a key role in new business models aimed at allowing the rural poor to become benefiting participants in modern marketing channels. More specifically, our research question here is: are business models driven by commercial farmers more successful than business models driven by NGOs in terms of integrating the rural poor in modern dynamic food supply chains? South Africa represents an interesting case to study the impact of commercial farmers on the rural poor because of its unique policy environment. This policy environment hast two key components which are influencing, in opposing ways, the involvement of the rural poor in South Africa's agri-food system.


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