The Claude Leon Foundation


The Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape was founded in 1995 and is widely recognized as a leading centre of research on social change in Africa. PLAAS undertakes research, policy engagement, teaching and training on the dynamics of chronic poverty and structural inequality in Southern Africa, with a particular emphasis on agro-food systems and land-based livelihoods.


In the past PLAAS focused mainly on issues of land and rural livelihoods, but research and teaching now considers the upstream and downstream aspects of agro-food commodity chains, production networks and systems, as well as the social and political dimensions of ecosystem management, in particular fisheries, water and catchment management. Key aspects of social policy affecting the dynamics of poverty and inequality in Southern and South Africa are also taken up.


PLAAS works closely with civil society organisations such as Masefundise, AFRA, the Legal Resources Centre, TshintshaAmakhaya and the Alliance for Rural Democracy in advocating for policies and laws that support the rights and livelihoods of the poor. PLAAS researchers have played important roles in litigation challenging laws seen as undermining citizens’ rights, such as the Communal Land Rights Act of 2004 and the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act of 2014. PLAAS researchers also play leading roles in Africa-wide policy processes, such as the Land Policy Initiative driven by the African Union.


Currently PLAAS is leading a project on elite capture of South Africa’s land reform, funded in part by the Claude Leon Foundation.


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