Marginalisation and demographic change in the Karoo


Nel, E and Hill, T (2008), “Marginalisation and demographic change in the Karoo, South Africa”, Journal of Arid Environments, vol. 72, 2008, pp. 2264-2274.



Semi-arid areas are often considered to be environmentally and economically marginal, a situation which has been exacerbated by economic change, shifts in agricultural production and land use, and changing state policy. These themes are explored with reference to a semi-arid landscape, namely the Karoo, which covers some 40% of the geographic space of South Africa and is used primarily for extensive livestock farming. Despite long-term decline in agricultural output, the traditional mainstay of the region, and weakening small town economies, the Karoo’s population and the economies of its largest service centres are growing. There are, real socio-economic needs and development backlogs, and the situation has been exacerbated by recent political marginalisation. In this study, the small towns of the region are focal points of investigation and provide a lens to investigate the changing demographic and economic dynamics of the Karoo. Most of the region’s population lives in these centres which are service, collection, and distribution points for what traditionally has been an agriculture-based regional economy. This paper explores the concept of marginalisation with specific reference to historical, economic, and demographic change.


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