Burning Questions
Fellowship Award Winners

Andrew Bennie, Andrew Bowman, Basani Baloyi, Yasirah Madhi

Location: South Africa (Bennie, Baloyi, Madhi), U.K. (Bowman)
Primary Academic field: Sociology (Bennie), International development (Bowman), Economics (Baloyi), Environment (Madhi)
Award category: PhD Student (with PhD-Holders as team members)

Topics to be Addressed during the Award Period:

  • Understanding the social and ecological implications of the planned export-driven growth of industrial beef production in South Africa in a time of climate crisis
  • Examine deeply the status and growth strategies of the industrial beef sector in South Africa, and in particular the interconnections between the smallholder producers and industrial system.
  • Describe the ecological and climate impacts of the South African industrial beef industry and its expansion.
  • Discuss the socio-economic dynamics of this expansion as it relates to workers and smallholder farmers in the beef value chain.
  • Propose potential strategies for an alternative, more sustainable and just livestock system in South Africa that achieves ecological harmony, just and equitable livelihoods, and the right to food.
  • The goal is to provide information to labor unions, civil society actors, and policymakers so that they can engage more deliberately with – and take steps to address – the ecological questions of industrial beef production, and of the country's food system as a whole. And more importantly, develop ways to confront industrial beef production expansion as a barrier to a just food system transition in South Africa.

Some of the Things We Really Liked when We Read the Application:

  • The topic chosen by the applicant and how it is approached shows a deep understanding of the complexities of the adoption and expansion of industrial livestock production in South Africa.
    • The applicant's examination of the beef sector is done against the backdrop and context of a new government agriculture plan Agricultural and Agro-processing Master Plan (AAMP), finalized in May 2023, that favors beef production in South Africa.
    • The beef industry turns AAMP's prioritization of beef into a strategy for expanding the industry. This strategy aims to grow the beef industry by 20% by the year 2030. The growth of beef production and export in particular is a principal focus of the strategy.
    • The applicant is concerned about two implications of this strategy and expansion: 1) Beef production's ecological problems. 2) The strategy's key mechanism of turning smallholder farmers into suppliers of weaners for the beef industry's feedlots.
  • A strong and diverse team, with individuals from different countries, disciplines, and stages in their research careers.
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