Agricultural Policy Research Unit


The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) boasts a strong Agricultural Economics department with a proud reputation for excellence in agricultural policy research, stemming in part from the success of Prof Lieb Nieuwoudt’s Human Sciences Research Council-funded Agricultural Policy Research Unit (APRU) at the University of Natal from 1984 to 2003. Agricultural economists at UKZN have subsequently built on this foundation, perhaps most visibly through a five-year National Research Foundation-funded project that focused on improving the competitiveness of South African agriculture.

A new Agricultural Policy Research Unit has more recently been established in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) at the Pietermaritzburg campus of UKZN. The new APRU was initiated by Mr Duncan Stewart, a UKZN Agricultural Economics alumni and Lima’s co-founder and Managing Director. Lima places considerable value on the role of academic research in influencing policy dialogue, and Duncan proposed a strategic research unit that would leverage UKZN’s considerable academic clout with Lima’s rural development expertise. Duncan’s ideas were enthusiastically received by Prof Albert Modi, Dean and Head of the SAEES, and Prof Gerald Ortmann, Senior Professor in Agricultural Economics, and during 2013, a collaborative agreement between UKZN and Lima evolved, through which Lima provided seed funding to establish the Unit.

Dr Stuart Ferrer was appointed as the inaugural director of the new ARPU, with Prof Nieuwoudt (who supervised Dr Ferrer’s doctoral work) serving as the Unit’s patron. Dr Ferrer was a lecturer in Agricultural Economics on UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus from 2001 to 2008, and a Senior Lecturer in Economics on the Westville Campus in 2009. Subsequently, Dr Ferrer was employed by the South African Cane Growers’ Association as manager of their Economic Research Department, before returning to UKZN to head the APRU.

Areas of Focus

The Agricultural Policy Research Unit engages in applied research to produce highly relevant, evidence-based discussion documents that constructively contribute to the debate on agricultural policy in South Africa. The initial foci of the APRU have been identified as land reform and agricultural labour markets, but the Unit’s research activities are likely to span a number of disciplines within the SAEES at UKZN. Research initiatives involve a range of interdisciplinary academic faculty, including honorary academic staff, and postgraduate student participation is integral to ARPU’s research output.


Kruger, E. And Gilles, J.L. (2014).
“A Review of Participatory Agricultural Research and Development in South Africa and KwaZulu Natal”.
Missouri University of Science and technology. Rolla, Missouri, USA.
Available at:

Thom, A. and Jonas, N. (2014).
“Assessing the Impacts of a Donor-Funded Agricultural Extension Service on Smallholders in Umzimkhulu, South Africa.”
Paper presented at the International Horticultural Conference, Brisbane, 17 – 22 Aug 2014.

Additional publications pending ~ coming soon

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