Food sovereignty and the challenges of agro-ecological farming: a case study of Hammarsdale, Durban.
Mncwabe, Njabulo Happiness.
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The purpose of this study is to contribute to the debate on one of the Food Sovereignty principles; agro-ecology. Agro-ecological farming which is primarily practiced by small-scale farmers is used as an example to explore how viable and sustainable it is as a method of farming in small communities. There is very limited data on food sovereignty and the nature of agro-ecology being practised as a method of farming in small communities. Consequently, with Food Sovereignty being a framework on its own, it was adopted as a theoretical foundation for this study, for its relevance. The aim of this study is to assess the nature and potential of agro-ecological farming methods and their implications (consequences, effects) for food sovereignty in Mpumalanga Township, Hammarsdale. This aim was achieved by commissioning in-depth interviews and focus group discussions as a qualitative data collection method, which was appropriate to deliver the perceptions and understandings of the farmers who farm using the principal of food sovereignty being agro-ecology. The objectives of the study are to understand the history, motivations, knowledge and practices of agro-ecological farmers in Mpumalanga Township, Hammarsdale. To investigate the reasons why farmers participate in agro-ecological farming. To examine the opportunities and barriers of agro-ecological farming. To assess the barriers of agro-ecological farming experienced by small-scale farmers in that area. To examine the different knowledge’s that farmers use for agro-ecological farming purposes (indigenous, western, and others). The findings suggest small-scale farmers who use the method of farming agro-ecologically are burdened by the barriers and challenges of farming agro-ecologically. These barriers and challenges include not having sufficient water for their food plants, lack of resources such as tools, access to land and the market to trade their produce. Although the farmers received assistance from local Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as LIMA and Food Tree’s, it was not enough to sustain them throughout every season of sowing and harvesting. The study also found out that the farmers who participated in this study had sentimental associations with agro-ecological farming. This is because from an early age, the farmers and their families practiced agro-ecological farming. Therefore, to them agro-ecological farming simply meant farming organically and only using natural constituents and not chemicals; while also ensuring that the environment is taken care of and the food produced does not pose any health hazards to the consumers.