An assessment of agricultural skills and their effect on agricultural productivity and household food security : a case of Tugela ferry irrigation scheme in KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa.
Agriculture is a crucial sector of the economy in many developing countries as it significantly contributes to domestic production and hence household food security. Lack of technical and managerial skills have been cited as the main reasons for poor performance among smallholder farmers. This study assessed the contribution of agricultural skills and knowledge to agricultural productivity, on one hand, and household food security, on the other hand. By identifying agricultural skills that are critical to agricultural productivity, the study seeks to find out ways of improving the level of competence in farmers‟ agricultural skills, hence, food security. Data was collected from a random sample of 250 smallholder farmers (67% women) in the Tugela Ferry irrigation scheme and Machunwini area in Msinga, KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa. A structured questionnaire was administered through face-to-face interviews for data collection. Descriptive statistics were used to present the results of the relationship between gender, age, level of education, access to extension services and agricultural skills and knowledge. Descriptive statistics were also used to present the results of the relationship between agricultural skills and knowledge, and agricultural productivity. The results of the descriptive statistics show that age of household head, gender, level of education and access to extension services had a significant effect on the level of competence in agricultural skills. It was also observed that agricultural skills and knowledge significantly affected agricultural productivity and household food security. The Ordinary Least Squares regression model was used to determine maize productivity and its results showed that competency in determining planting depth, irrigation scheduling and frequency, education level, farming practice and farming experience had a significant effect on maize productivity. Gender, education level, farming practice, competency in determining planting depth and nutrient deficiency in crops, goat ownership and total income had a significant effect on household food security. These findings of the regression models suggest that adjustment of the respective significant variables can influence agricultural productivity and household food security. In view of the research findings, the study identified weaknesses in the provision of extension services. Farmers experienced few extension visits and the study recommends that extension services be improved by increasing the number and effectiveness of extension agents in rural areas.
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