Identifying land suitable for agricultural land reform using GIS-MCDA in South Africa

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41 Citations (Scopus)


Land reform is identified as a key tool in fostering development in South Africa. Twenty years after the advent of democracy in South Africa, the land question remains a critical issue for policy makers. Several frameworks have been put in place by the government to identify land that is strategically located for land reform. However, many of these frameworks are not well aligned and not objective in defining strategically located land for land reform and often lead to unsustainable land use management practices. This has hampered the government’s land reform initiative in promoting agricultural land reform and food security. Accordingly, there is a need to develop a decision support tool that facilitates the identification of strategically located land for land reform. This study proposes the use of geographic information systems (GIS) and multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) to develop a strategically located land index (SLLI) to identify land suitable for agricultural land reform. Participatory workshops and the group analytical hierarchy process were utilised to identify and weigh criteria used in computing the SLLI. The results indicate that land that is suitable for agricultural land reform is scarce, and there are also competing needs on the highly suitable land for agriculture. The study demonstrates that GIS and MCDA are invaluable tools in facilitating evidence-based decision-making for land reform and sustainable land use management practices. The SLLI is not the panacea to land identification; there is also need to appreciate the contested nature of land in South Africa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2281-2299
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironment, Development and Sustainability
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • Agriculture
  • Land reform
  • Land suitability
  • South Africa
  • Strategically located land
  • Sustainable

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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