Articles tagged with: agriculture

Food security and smallholder farmers

on Friday, 31 January 2014. Posted in Agriculture & the Enviroment

The agricultural economy of South Africa is divided into two sections - large agro-industrial commercial farmers who grow food for profit and often for export, and small-scale farmers who grow food for their own consumption. There is a huge gap in between these two categories that could be filled by emerging farmers who grow food not just to eat, but to sell and earn an income and even to create jobs. There are roughly 3 million small-scale farmers in South Africa who produce food primarily to feed their families, and 240 000 black commercially oriented farmers that not only feed their families, but also provide jobs for 500 000 people. The small-scale farmers practice subsistence production or smallholder production which increases food supplies and thus cushion households from food price shocks, thereby improving household food security. It also improves human health since eating fresh vegetables has many nutrients and vitamins. If these farmers could expand their operations and grow more, they could generate a cash income. However, they face many challenges in their attempts to expand, most importantly, the poor quality of the land that they live on and the lack of seeds, water, mechanical interventions like tractors, and transport to get their extra products to the market. If they had these inputs, they could become the foundation of the country's emerging commercial farming class.


From smallholder to emerging farmers – the transition economy

on Friday, 31 January 2014. Posted in Agriculture & the Enviroment

While in the past rural households produced most of their own food, this has changed and there is an increasing dependence on market purchases so that food expenditures can account for as much as 60-80% of total household income for low-income households. Smallholder agriculture can play an important role in reducing the vulnerability of rural food-insecure households, improving livelihoods, and helping to overcome high food price inflation. There is a need to significantly increase the productivity of smallholder agriculture and ensure long-term food security. This can be achieved by encouraging farmers to pursue sustainable intensification of production through the use of improved inputs.


Improving yields of smallholder farmers

on Friday, 31 January 2014. Posted in Agriculture & the Enviroment

South Africa’s poor, rural families are ready to move away from dependence on social welfare and develop small farming businesses to alleviate food insecurity and create jobs. Subsistence production reduces household food costs but some trading is inevitably necessary to satisfy all food and non-food needs. Emerging farmers are inherently small – small land sizes and diverse production modes – making survival difficult in the modern agriculture economy. Even though smallholder farmers ensure that there is food on the table, they need to become more productive to increase their outputs and yields. They need support to take up farming methods that improve their crops. There are many initiatives to assist the improvement in the technical aspects of farming – vaccine research, extension services, and agricultural training colleges and they need to be linked to rural development.


Organic agriculture

on Friday, 31 January 2014. Posted in Agriculture & the Enviroment

Organic is nothing new in Africa – the indigenous farming systems that were used in the past could be referred as organic farming – they did not use pesticides and the method of producing the food relied on the natural resource base. Organic farming relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control. While fertilizers and pesticides are used, it excludes the use of manufactured (synthetic) fertilizers, pesticides, plant growth regulators such as hormones, livestock antibiotics, food additives, genetically modified organisms, human sewage sludge. The organic farmers use a range of techniques that help sustain ecosystems and reduce pollution. Organic farming is particularly suited to smallholder farmers since from an input-efficiency perspective, many organic farms have superior yields. The food is also healthier. The South African government is supportive of organic farming and has recognised its potential for improving income, generating new supply streams and boosting rural agriculture.



on Friday, 31 January 2014. Posted in Agriculture & the Enviroment

Permaculture is based on environmental principles: care of the earth, care of the people and sharing of resources. Care of the earth involves not using chemicals and growing plants that benefit the soil rather than ruining it; care of the people involves not using poisons in the food and providing healthy, well combined food for people to eat. ‘Sharing of resources’ means giving away surplus food and preparing meals from our surplus that can support people who are sick, poor or need support. It can also mean saving seeds from the food that you harvest to grow more for the next year. The aim is to 'integrate rather than segregate' which means that by putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other. Such relationships are commonly organized in spatial patterns common in natural systems.


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