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Local economic sustainability under smallholder subsistence farming.

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Food insecurity an issue for many rural households in South Africa. Many South African rural households mainly depend on subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods, income, and food security. However, subsistence farming is not developed enough to provide smallholder farmers with their needs. Smallholder farmers still are faced with many obstacles during and after their production. The aims of study was to understand how smallholder subsistence production systems work, and to access crop production, and economic systems of smallholder farmers. Eight rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal (Deepdale, Swayimane, Nhlazuka, Vulindlela, Ogagwini, Mvuzane and Emaswazini) were considered to gather information on homestead crop and seed production systems. The results are based on data collected from a sample of 162 households using semi-structured questionnaires. Out of the eight rural areas, three rural areas were used to compare how much smallholder farmers consume and sell from what they have harvested for selected crops (maize, beans and cabbage). A total of 59 questionnaires were successfully completed from households. Chi-square, ANOVA, descriptive statistics and paired t-test were used to analyse data at a 5% level of significant association. Results showed that there were significance differences (P < 0.05) in most of the exploratory variables among locations. Findings showed that major crops produced by smallholder farmers were maize, beans and potatoes and the minor crops were vegetables. Most of the smallholder farmers obtained their seeds from saved seeds, neighbours, donations and local shops. The study also revealed that most used storage devices were floor, underground, sealed grain and roof. Farmers assessed seed quality by looking at seed sizes, colour and germination capacity. The study also found that smallholder farmers consume more than they can sell for grain crops (maize and beans). The nature of cabbage made farmers to sell more of it at a cheaper price. The findings showed that there is still more interventions needed under subsistence farming. It can be concluded that there is a need for policy makers, government and researchers to develop new and innovative strategies that will improve subsistence agricultural productivity.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.