People and drought in South Africa: reaction and migration


Book section


Vogel, C.H
Binns, T.


People and drought in South Africa: reaction and migration



Book Title

People and Environment in Africa


The paper focuses mainly on the former Bophuthatswana, and examines the official and local responses to drought in South Africa and in the semiarid environment of the Tswana people. It is shown that droughts are endemic features in South Africa, and while there has been considerable investigation into climatic factors leading to drought, relatively little attention has been directed towards the impact of drought on the rural poor. There has been much debate in South Africa about drought relief policy and the need for this to be both more proactive and also broader-based. At last, with political change, there seems to be general recognition of the need to locate drought relief within a broader rural development context which includes black farmers and the rural poor. There is an urgent need for more detailed examination and understanding of drought-coping strategies at the local level and the various factors which might affect these strategies. A 10 year study (1982-92) of two Tswana villages in north western South Africa has revealed some changes in drought-coping strategies. Most notably has been the decline of community support structures and collective coping strategies. Support from local leaders and chiefs has been replaced by state support. Long-term migration is no longer popular, with many people preferring to ‘sit-out’ the drought in the hope that food aid will come. In conclusion, the paper argues for further empirical studies to understand how poor rural people cope with environmental stress.


Vogel, C. H., & Binns, T. (1995). People and drought in South Africa: reaction and migration. In People and Environment in Africa (pp. 249-256).