The transfer of technology to the rural poor : the case of Qamata irrigation scheme in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.
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Poverty, unemployment, inequality and food insecurity are common facts of life in rural communities in the former homelands of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa despite decades of massive infusion of irrigation technology and resources into the rural economies. These problems are mostly the corollary of public policies enacted and executed over the years under colonial and apartheid regimes. Even the establishment of developmental local government and the introduction of various forms of integrated and sustainable rural development policies and programmes under the current democratic political dispensation, which began in 1994, have not brought much relief to the rural areas. Development policies and programmes have not been successful at increasing the coping strategies of the majority of the rural poor as they continue to remain outside the mainstream of development action. The persistence of socio-economic problems elicits questions regarding the appropriateness of development policies with respect to the transfer of irrigation technology to the rural poor. This study critically investigates the social and economic effects of Qamata Irrigation Scheme (QIS) on the living conditions and coping strategies of the farmers at Qamata. The outcome of the investigation is used as the context to analyse the effectiveness and appropriateness of the irrigation development and management policies in the transfer of irrigation technology to the farmers. The choice of QIS was occasioned by its position as the first state financed large-scale irrigation scheme in the late 1960s in the former Transkei which was the poorest and most populous Bantustan; Qamata was one of the poorest rural communities in the territory. Besides, QIS is one of the largest irrigation schemes in the Eastern Cape which has attracted a considerable amount of resources and public attention. It was therefore thought that the study of QIS could generate the relevant data required to evaluate the appropriateness of irrigation schemes in rural development in the province. The roles and expectations of development functionaries with reference to development policies, programmes, practices and achievements, and the living conditions, needs, aspirations and perceptions of beneficiaries were critically examined. Because rural development is a multi-faceted concept, the approach of the study was eclectic. The data which ensued was analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively with chi-square test and independent samples t-test to arrive at forthright and compelling conclusions. The study revealed that rural development at Qamata is fraught with political, institutional and organizational problems. As a result, the Qamata Irrigation Scheme could not bring about the expected socio-economic development in the surrounding rural communities. Suggestions are offered on the basis of the research findings for meaningful rural development. The participation of local communities, especially women who bear the brunt of rural poverty and food crop production, in development policy formulation and the participation of the youth in irrigation farming are seen as essential prerequisites for goal oriented rural and agricultural development intervention programmes.