Production constraints and choice of farming practices across selected smallholder farming systems in KwaZulu-Natal.
MetadataShow full item record
The agricultural sector continues to stimulate economic growth for developing economies. This phenomenon relates to South Africa, where agriculture plays a crucial role in livelihood creation and economic growth in the country’s rural areas. Smallholder farmers are drivers of many economies in Africa, even though their potential is often overlooked. South Africa’s rural development framework in the National Development Plan (NDP) shows that smallholder agriculture has a prospective role in developing the country’s rural economy. However, rural households continue to derive a small proportion of their livelihoods directly from agriculture because of a number of constraints. This study, on smallholders in KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, investigated the constraints they face and their effects on farm production, as well as the factors influencing their choice of farming practices. The main question is whether or not smallholder agriculture can significantly contribute to economic development in poor rural households. Data were drawn from a sample of 400 farmers in Ndwedwe and Umzimkhulu Local Municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal province, using a structured questionnaire. Farmers were selected using multistage randomised sampling technique. Descriptive statistics were used to explain farm level characteristics. The Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was used to transform a set of inter-related variables into core uncorrelated factors. The Tobit regression model was used in assessing the determinants of production constraints faced by smallholder farmers and their effect on agricultural production, while the multinomial logistic (MNL) regression model was used to examine and identify the factors influencing farmers’ choice of farming practices. The study findings revealed that smallholder farmers faced limited access to agricultural land and farm services in and/or out for the farm, e.g. produce markets, infrastructure, credit facilities and extension. The estimated results of the Tobit model showed that farm level characteristics statistically and significantly influenced the production constraints in KwaZulu-Natal and the measures needed to improve smallholder agricultural production include easing access to agricultural land, credit facilities, extension and markets, in order to encourage farm innovation through the adoption of improved farming practices. The common farming practices of choice were subsistence crop farming, improved crop farming and mixed farming. The estimated results of the MNL model showed that the common choice of farming practices was statistically and significantly influenced by various factors, which included total land size, type of land, market access, household size, education level and age of the household head. The study concluded that smallholders seek to increase agricultural production in order to improve their livelihoods. It recommends that, given the constraints they are facing, strategic measures to increase access to agricultural land and farm services in and/or out of the farm should be implemented jointly, so that farmers would be more inclined to improve their farming practices. These farmers should form co-operatives for easy access to improved farming inputs from financial institutions, local government and NGOs. Development agents should facilitate, safeguard and promote awareness of productive farming practices in order to improve their adoption in rural areas. Farm opportunities should be explored to encourage smallholders to diversify farming practices. Research should identify adapted, efficient and high-yielding farming practices to improve agricultural production and livelihoods of smallholders. Policies and investment priorities should recognise available opportunities and constraints facing farmers and empower them to create an enabling environment to improve farm production.