Cross-national regressions reveal abnormally low agricultural workforce shares, given GNP, in developing countries that had historically concentrated land into large capital-intensive farms. We argue that such deagriculturalisation was premature, since its concomitant labour shedding has undesirable outcomes. In a new South African survey, a large proportion of rural households (and working-age persons) was ‘dependent’, relying for income almost wholly on either migrant remittances or pensions. A separate group (with less poverty and unemployment) relied mainly on local, including own-farm, income. The group was heavily over-represented in one of the three regions, where many more households had significant land.