Small-scale farming, marketing and organisational support received since 2002 on the Mooi River irrigation scheme in Muden, Central KwaZulu-Natal.
Small-scale farming plays a significant role in rural people's lives. Small-scale farming contributes to food production, household income and to the employment of people in rural South Africa. They also face many constraints in their farming activities such as lack of capital, of quality seed, of fertilizer, of equipment, of water for irrigation, of technology, of storage facilities, of transport, of market, of training and finance. These in fact, limit farmers in their farming activities and affect their farming outputs. In this regard, small-scale farmers rely on government, private companies and NGOs for agricultural support. These are often insufficient as farmers still face many challenges in their farming and their needs tend not to change for the better. This study investigated whether there had been changes or improvements in small-scale farming on the Mooi River irrigation scheme in Muden over the past three years since the previous baseline survey was conducted in 2002. The study also investigated the activities of farmers' associations, Provincial Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs (DAEA) and NGOs in Muden and determined the activities that were needed for small-scale farmers to overcome their constraints. The research took place amongst small-scale farmers from block 6, 12 and 15 that were randomly selected from 15 blocks on Mooi River irrigation scheme in 2002. Convenience sampling of individuals was done resulting in an estimated 25 percent sample of the farmer population. A household survey was conducted with each participant to provide data on demographic detail. Aspects of the sustainable livelihood analysis data tool were used to guide this data collection and to encourage the farmers to identify their assets in terms of people in households, age, education level, skills, contribution to farming and off-farm income. Focus group discussions were also conducted with each selected block, guided by sustainable livelihoods analysis in order for the farmers to identify their assets, institutions as well as constraints; and strategies to improve their small-scale farming. The findings of this study showed that since 2002 the farmers' household size decreased which resulted in decreased family labour. In addition, the findings reflected that few young people were involved in farming. The level of illiteracy was still high among small-scale farmers and the few off-farm income-earning activities for farmers did not change for the better. Furthermore, off-farm income and farmers' markets to sell fresh produce decreased. The farmers had more skills and acquired more tools for farming. But accessing modern tools such as a tractor, bakkie, and water pump were still a challenge for the farmers. The findings showed that the farmers on the Mooi River irrigation scheme obtained support from farmers' associations, NGOs, and Provincial Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs which assisted them in their farming activities. Though the farmers obtained some support from the above-mentioned institutions, their farming constraints still persisted. As a result, the farmers made plans of action to minimize their constraints and improve their farming. The farmers planned to obtain fencing, undergo leadership training, use farmers' association constitutions, obtain a tractor, find markets, attend agricultural meetings, and obtain more dams, sprinklers and water pumps. This study recommends that young people be encouraged to be involved in farming through the introduction of cash crops. The study also recommends that farming be made more attractive to young people as they are stronger and more educated than their parents. In addition, it was recommended that adult education and farmers' training be introduced because there is high level of illiteracy. There was a need for job creation for farmers to be able to earn incomes to support their farming. Market opportunities, promoting credit facilities, and promoting modern technology were recommended to improve small-scale farming on the Mooi River irrigation scheme.
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