Experiences with mechanisation - government tractor service provision and small holder farming in Nkandla and Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal.
Gwala, S'celo S'duduzo.
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This research explores the experiences that smallholder farmers have had when implementing the government’s tractor services provision (mechanisation) programme. The objective was to understand the programme’s contribution towards improving farming activities. A convenient respondent group of beneficiary farmers was drawn from the selected villages of Nkandla and Ixopo, in KwaZulu-Natal. Members of the government involved in the implementation of the programme were also purposefully engaged in the study. Semi-structured individual and focus group interviews, and observation in the field, were used as data collection tools. The findings suggest that the programme contributed towards an increase in ploughed land which enabled farmers to plant more cash and food crops. The challenges that were found, ranged from high input costs which meant partially planted fields, to ill-timed services coupled with frequent mechanical breakdowns and tyre punctures. This led to problems such as temporary interruptions of ploughing action, squabbling between people and conflict over servicing of farmers’ sequence characterised by poor planning and management of the programme. The results of the study therefore recommend a gradual scaling-up of production potential through the classification and the evaluation of each farmers’ unique capabilities. The introduction of an appropriate set of equipment a farmer can independently afford to obtain, to maintain and to sustain, is also recommended.