Efficient and sustainable small-scale farming has been identified by both provincial and national South African government departments as a key intervention to potentially boost economic development in rural areas and to improve people’s livelihoods.
The Donald Woods Foundation is assisting this initiative in the Eastern Cape by driving livestock health in our area of operation, and working closely with local subsistence and small-scale farmers to boost animal health and overall food security.
The challenges we face
Supplementing the Foundation’s existing Livestock Support programme to assist local small-scale farmers to protect and enhance the health of their cattle herds and small ruminants such as sheep and goats; the Foundation is continuing to hold community consultations regarding enhancing food security through building skills in expanding improved small homestead gardens into crop farming.
But human development is equally important with good nutrition being a crucial building block in the development of children into strong, healthy and cognitively well developed adults. Many rural households in the Foundation’s area of operation are poor, food insecure and are unable to afford good nutrition with many surviving on one meal a day. Malnutrition is widespread and severe malnutrition resulting in the death of children under five-years is not unknown.
While Hobeni and surrounding districts have a temperate subtropical climate, good soils and a high agricultural, timber and livestock potential; subsistence farming is difficult and limited for many reasons including insufficient access to even micro-capital, lack of support services and constrained agricultural extension systems.
Communities need the skills, infrastructure and stimulus to make sustainable subsistence farming generate a surplus and to make profitable use of their natural resources. An analysis by a team of experienced rural development practitioners and academics, has confirmed that there is potential for significant increase in household food production. The environment is conducive for a number of profitable subtropical agricultural and livestock enterprises which can contribute significantly to homestead income, leading to a thriving business based, local economy.
Analysis further indicates that it is possible to build on traditional farming practices and promote climate smart, sustainable agricultural production. This can increase the production of food and other products and enable farmers to participate, through local processing and marketing, in the full value chain of their primary products. A method to achieve this by aggregating large numbers of small producers to achieve economies of scale, has been developed and is applicable to the communities around Hobeni.
Our vision for crop farming
Of prime importance is the training of local homestead producers, farmers, school learners and educators, youth and community leadership. People need training and demonstrations of what is possible, they need education in entrepreneurial and business opportunities. There is a pressing requirement for the development of appropriate skills in the technical, professional, production, marketing and general business sectors.
In addition the remoteness of the area, lack of infrastructure, a dearth of convenient and economic sources of production requirements and the absence of an organised market for livestock and agricultural products, makes profitable production by homestead and small farmer extremely difficult and risk prone. This may be precisely why, with all the efforts that the people and support agencies have invested in the past, there is still so little improvement in agricultural production.