Social embeddedness of agriculture for human progress in the nineteenth century southern Africa: Evidence and lessons from Lesotho

Khali Mofuoa

Agriculture is the lifeblood of majority of people in southern Africa. It has been the mainstay of development path for years in the region, and it remains the most important sector for food, income and employment for many southern Africans. Whilst subsistence farming is historically the most practiced form of agriculture in southern Africa, there are many parts of southern Africa where agriculture demonstrated its possibility of becoming a growth sector in economic terms. The case in point here is the ‘granary economy’ of Lesotho in the 19th Century. Although, it is now hardly possible to recall that Lesotho ever produced an agricultural surplus, the fact is that Lesotho was the net exporter of maize until around 1930s (Gill 1993). Using evidence from the ‘granary economy’ of Lesotho in the 19th Century, this paper notes that, with its largely untapped potential, it is possible for agriculture to become southern Africa’s growth sector for human progress in the 21st century and beyond if its ‘social embeddedness’ is elevated. The paper, therefore, concludes that there is great potential for harnessing the benefits of the social embeddedness of agriculture for human progress as evidenced from Lesotho in the 19th Century.

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