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About the SA Land Observatory

What is the South African Land Observatory (SALO)?

The South African Land Observatory is an initiative whose overall objective is to promote evidence-based and inclusive decision-making over land resources in South Africa. As its name ‘Observatory’ suggests, it collects data and information on land. The initiative is a repository of what is published on land in South Africa and on the events that take place around land in South Africa. In addition, it makes user-friendly land-based information available to all stakeholders with the aim of creating an informed land community in South Africa, through facilitating  access to data, information and networking. It is, most importantly, a one-stop help desk for the land community to debate the pressing questions of land ownership and land use in South Africa.

Why the South African Land Observatory?

The project responds to the need for data generation, monitoring evolutions and making information and research available, with regards land in South Africa. Information is made available  to multiple stakeholders at different levels, particularly in support of present evolutions in South Africa.
This project finds itself at the crossroads of several present observations in South Africa and beyond, which include the following:

  • South Africa’s willingness to engage in more effective and successful land reform.
    The resolutions of the 2014 Land Summit have put to the fore the need for South Africa to further engage in effective land reform. Several options were put forward: namely; land holdings, 50/50, foreign ownership, agriparks, etc.
  • The need for evidence-based decision-making at decentralised levels. Within the Summit’s framework, it was also recognised that these reforms should be grounded on evidence and be informed as well as being inclusive of the levels and stakeholders they directly affect. A decentralised approach, based on District Land Reform Committees is thus being promoted. The latter will have to be capacitated and will need to be informed, in order to engage in evidence-based policy making.

These observations correspond to the guidelines of the Land Policy Initiative’s “Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa” (URL:, which in particular promotes:

  • The constructive engagement of African States in land reform, for political, economic, social and environmental reasons;
  • Inclusiveness, participation and continuous public engagement through decentralised structures;
  • The development of tracking and monitoring systems, to avail data and enable informed and evidence-based decision-making and policy process, at different governance levels.

SALO comes in support of several policy evolutions in South Africa. In particular, it is a tool at the interface between, among others, the upcoming Land Commission Bill and the Regulation of Agricultural Land Holdings Bill (RALHB), including the Land Ceilings and Land Ownership by Foreign Nationals.

Noteworthy is that the SALO will not only serve as support to the country’s present policy evolutions, in particular the Land Commission Bill and the Regulation of Land Holdings Bill, it will also be a tool to dig deeper into and engage research in certain aspects related to land ownership and use, covering aspects such as corporisation and financialisation of land.

How reliable is the data?

The database is largely reliable as it relies extensively on official sources. However, data errors and gaps may exist if the information provided by the source is inaccurate or if there were mistakes in entering the data. Since there are no established data error-checking procedures within the country, it is expected that outdated data is published. Furthermore, government, at different levels, has been the sole official custodian of land data, responsible for collecting and storing data. Official data sources may not actually reflect the reality on the ground. Over time, with continued participatory data verification and validation, the database is expected to become more accurate.

If you notice inaccuracies, dead links or have more information on existing or new land transactions, please contact us. Your contributions, as the land observer, are valuable in ensuring the reliability of the data on this website. Publish your content on land in South Africa by clicking on

Where does the information come from?

Data is gathered from a variety of sources that deal with land and land-related issues within the country. The sources include:

Each posted document includes information and links (whenever available) to the original data source. Primary data collection is done by researchers at decentralised levels, i.e. districts. SALO fosters links with public, private and civil society stakeholders in order to increase the quality of the data. In addition, the website uses a crowdsourcing function where any user is able to contribute to the SALO. Contributed information is verified before it is included in the database. Changes may not be reflected immediately. Comments made on existing data and documents remain on the website, unless the relevant article or document is removed from the database.

What is the methodology for data collection?

A combination of data collection tools for an all-encompassing and comprehensive result at all levels is used. Due to the existence of readily available data, databases that are already in existence, such as Deeds registries (land ownership, monitoring land transactions, etc), Surveyor General’s office (land dermacations, land size, etc), among others, are given preference. This is complemented by satellite imaginary and remote sensing (monitoring of land use cover, land degradation, water use, etc). Many of these data sources will be accessed on a continuous basis, leading to dynamic data and databases.

Beyond desktop data aggregation, the project engages in in-depth surveys, allowing for a better understanding of the complexities on the ground. This allows for an assessment of not only ownership and use, but also who controls the land, who manages it, etc. Primary data complements the existing secondary data through collection of ground truth information required to fill information gaps but also to respond to different and new challenges.

The focus is on decentralised data and information, feeding into the national database and national decision-making processes. A decentralised primary data gathering system is implemented to curb data inconsistencies. Information gathering, managed by district land reform committees involves an identification of the farms, what is happening on the farms, how much land is under production, who owns the farms, etc.
The primary data collection process combines geographical and socio-economic instruments for identification of the diversity of farmers through application of a farming systems approach. And, overall, data collection relies on your contribution as a land observer.

Your contributions through will make the website current and reliable.

Which countries or provinces are covered?

SALO provides data on land in all the nine provinces of South Africa. Data is displayed by provincial, municipal and farm boundaries.

How can l report information?

Information on land is constantly evolving. To make this resource more accurate and comprehensive, your participation is encouraged. Such an initiative can only be a success with active participation of the broader land stakeholder community. Since data errors may arise from information becoming out of date, the project relies on available networks in the country and users of the website to provide updates.

Your contributions through will make the website current and reliable.

How can l use the data?

For effective use of the data for evidence-based decision-making, users can download the entire dataset, info graphics, filtered parts of the data or the entire software.
Data is made available for users on Open Access conditions.

Users are free:

  • to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work
  • to Remix – to adapt the work

Under the following conditions:

  • Attribution – You must attribute the work in the manner specified within SALO, acknowledging the original source.
  • Share Alike – If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.


Creative Commons License
South African Land Observatory by South African Land Observatory is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

How should l cite the South African Land Observatory?

Depending on the referencing style adopted, ensure that all the necessary detail is included. For example, Chicago style: The South African Land Observatory. “Page Title.” Accessed Date, [Insert date of access]. [Insert specific link].

Who works at the South African Land Observatory?

The South African Land Observatory is managed by a small team based at the University of Pretoria:

Ward Anseeuw, Project Leader

Thinah Moyo, Project Coordinator

Tatenda Mutungira, Researcher

Nosipho Mabuza, Research Assistant


Who are the partners?

The most important partners in keeping the data up to date in the SALO are yourselves as users. We rely on information provided by researchers, activists, practitioners, government agencies, journalists and companies to improve the data.

The SALO is coordinated by the following organisations:

CIRAD, Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement


CIRAD is a French research centre working with developing countries to tackle international agricultural and development issues. CIRAD is part of the Research Committee, supports data collection for Africa, coordinates the development of an Africa Observatory/Portal and contributes to the establishment of national land observatories in Africa (South Africa and Cameroon to date).



University of Pretoria


The University of Pretoria is a major academic institution in Africa, particularly engaged in the development of consistent data with regards agriculture and land governance. The Postgraduate School of Agriculture and Rural Development at the University of Pretoria coordinates data collection, research, networking and communications for the SALO.



Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation (GovInn) 

Centre for the Study of Governance InnovationThe Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation is the first research institution in Africa dedicated entirely to governance innovation.
GovInn is  an ‘innovation laboratory’ capable of generating new thinking about governance and development. It focuses on cutting-edge research, attracting innovators from all over the world.

Donor: The Flemish Cooperation


The SALO is financed by the Flemish Cooperation. Supporters are not responsible for the choice and the presentation of the facts contained on this website.




Technical partner: AAM

AAM is a Geospatial Services company specialising in the collection, analysis, presentation and delivery of geospatial information. They digitise the real world for business and government. From vast expanses of landscape down to individual pieces of machinery.


Please note that while efforts are made to ensure accuracy, the SALO does not guarantee that all the information on this website is complete or accurate. Comments on the accuracy of data displayed are invited. Information is inherently subject to change without notice and may become outdated.

Only records and fields that have been subjected to the error-checking process as described on this page are publicly available on this website. The error-checking process has confirmed that data in the national observatory are correct according to the sources given for each record. Whilst the Partnership endeavours to ensure that all errors have been corrected, some may still remain due to data entry error or changing circumstances. We welcome and encourage the submission of any information that can help improve the accuracy of the data.

If you notice inaccuracies, dead website reference links or have more information, please contact us using the links provided.

The representation of facts and interpretations expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinions of the SALO partner organisations or its supporters.

Get in touch

Please read the content above carefully. You might already find your answer!


Are you a journalist and want to write a piece on the South African Land Observatory? Do you wish to set up an interview? Please write to


Do you have questions, suggestions, feedback for the programmers? Do you wish to use our codebase for your projects? Are you having technical problems, or wish to report a bug? Please write to


Do you have any comment or question on the data or the methodology? Do you want to share data on land or land related transactions? Please write to

Remember that you can also add your comments under each article on the website, or contribute content on

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