Benni, Andrew

Contact Details

+2272 278 4315


University of Witwatersrand

PhD Project Title

Re-thinking the Agrarian Question in South Africa: Contestation and Alternatives in the South African Agor-Food System

Abstract of PhD Thesis

In the context of widespread existence of hunger in South Africa, in contrast to the country’s highly developed commercial agricultural system, my research aims to explore the levels at which the food system is being contested in South Africa. That is, what forms does the politics of food take in South Africa? My research is informed by the food sovereignty perspective, which has arisen globally as an idea and practice from the agrarian space by those being dispossessed by the progression of global agriculture, the peasantry. However, South Africa’s agricultural system and societal structure belies a neat transplanting of the idea of food sovereignty as a frame for defining the goal of a just food system in the country and as a frame for collective action. In a context in which many argue that the agrarian question in South Africa is not about food, but an array of livelihood strategies beyond farming, my research aims to examine how food sovereignty is being conceptualised, how it is being put into practice in differing forms of collective action and, further, how the politics of food is being shaped in South Africa in ways that might also fall outside of the food sovereignty discourse. My research therefore aims to explore the nature of existing forms of activism and politics and the implications and challenges that these pose for food sovereignty in South Africa.

Area of Interest

Agrarian Political Economy, Alternatives, Food Sovereignty

Educational Background


Bachelor of Arts, University of Witwatersrand, majoring in economic studies & sociology


Honours Degree, University of Witwatersrand, in development and environmental Sociology


Masters in Sociology, with a special research focus on environmental & development sociology

Professional Experience


Sessional Lecturer in 3rd year sociology social theory course: "Culture, Power and Identity", at Wits Plus, University of Witwatersrand


Cooperative & Policy Alternative Centre (COPAC), undertaking the following activities:

  • Grassroots solidarity economy organising in townshup & rural sites in South Africa and movement organising nationally
  • Research and wirting: cooperatives, the solidarity economy, alternatives, agrarian issues, hunger and food sovereignty
  • Popular education: construction of popular education materials and facilitation of popular education
  • Managing and editing the Solidarity Economy Newsletter, a national platform for news and analysis relating to the solidarity economy, alternatives and food sovereignty
  • Organiser of Food Sovereignty Campain
Prior to these Andrew Bennie was involved in Academic studies where he also undertook tutoring of undergraduate classes and was involved in various research projects

Social/Political Activities

  • previously an activist in the Democratic Left Front (DLF)
  • Solidarity economy movement organising
  • Activist and organiser in the South African Food Sovereignty Campain



Golden Key Award


Short-listed for Ruth First Award for 3rd Year research projects, Department of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand


Mail and Guardian 200 Xoung South Africans (Link)


ICDD PhD Scholarship Recipient


  • 2010: "The Potential for Green Jobs in Gauteng in Renewable Energy, Waste Recycling and Tourism", Society and Development Institute (SWOP), University of Witwatersrand.
  • 2011: "Questions for labour on land, livelihoods and jobs: a case study of the proposed mining at Xolobeni, Wild Coast", South African Review of Sociology, Vol. 42, No.3. (Link)
  • 2012: "Questions for trade unions on land, livelihoods and jobs", in Trade Unions in the Green Economy: Working for the Environment, edited by N. Räthzel and D.Uzzel. Oxon: Routledge.
  • 2013: "Women and Gender in South Africa"; Working Paper, Self-help or Transformation? The Role of Women in Local Governance in Kerala and South Africa. Johannesburg
  • 2014: "Linking food sovereignty and The Solidarity Economy in South African townships", in The Solidarity Economy Alternative: Emerging Theory and Practice, edited by Vishwas Stagar. Pietermaritzburg: UKZN Press.
  • 2014: Food Sovereignty for the Right to Food: A Guide for Grassroots Activism. Johannesburg: Cooperative & Policy Alternative Centre (COPAC). (Link)
  • 2014 (with Michelle Williams): "Empowered" Women: Learning From Women in Keiskammahoek, Ivory Park and Mgababa. Johannesburg: Cooperative and Policy Alternative Centre (COPAC), with the support of Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research (NIBR) and Wits University (Link)