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Investigating factors that influence the sustainability of urban agriculture: a case study of Kwa-Mashu, eThekwini Municipality.

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In recent years, the concept of urban agriculture (UA), has been explored as a remedy for urban poverty and deteriorated socio-economic conditions, with numerous studies arguing in favour of UA’s benefits. Despite the continuous support provided to UA projects by eThekwini Municipality to overcome challenges such as food insecurity and poverty, these projects are not self-sustaining. Instead, the carbon footprint of food is increasing, thereby threatening sustainability efforts. There have been studies conducted on UA in eThekwini, however, a few have focused on factors that affect the sustainability of these projects. Hence, this study aimed to investigate factors that affect the sustainability of small-scale urban agriculture projects assisted by eThekwini Municipality in Kwa-Mashu and propose a sustainable livelihood framework that could be used to inform the food system strategy in the city. A mixed method approach, employing a descriptive design was used to gather data. Data collection progressed from July to August 2022 using questionnaires through a survey method. Probability sampling was employed, and a total of 36 individuals involved in UA were included in the sample. Qualitative data was analyzed using thematic analysis method, while quantitative data was analyzed using inferential statistics through SPSS. To this end, results showed that UA is predominantly practiced by women between ages 36 – 60, and that 63% of the respondents involved in UA were unemployed. The most grown crops are spinach, beet, butternut, herbs, peppers, carrots as well as Colocasia esculenta (commonly known as Amadumbe). The study also showed that 69% of respondents practice UA for consumption and only sell surplus food to other neighbours. The income generated from selling produce was not significant (p < 0.005) between those who claimed to be subsistence, semi-commercial and commercial farmers. Common challenges experienced appeared to be a lack of sufficient arable land to farm, inadequate water for irrigation, as well as lack of market. In addition, findings revealed that factors that affect success of UA can be easily recognized when practices are assessed in relation to the principles of sustainability. Hence this study discovered that food production without any link to socio-economic empowerment and environmental protection, is unsustainable. This study therefore strengthens systems approach and recommends that the municipality offer opportunities for farmers to fully transition to agroecological farming, develop economic skills and engage in farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.