Commercial agriculture in the Swartland : investigating emerging trends towards more sustainable food production

Metelerkamp, Luke (2011-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--University of Stellenbosch, 2011.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The aim of this thesis was to determine whether or not examples exist of commercial grain farmers in the Swartland region of South Africa moving away from high-external-input agricultural production systems towards production systems based on ecologically restorative partnerships with soils and other natural systems. The research also sought to understand why these farmers were changing their approach to farming, as well as investigating the specific technologies and practices they were implementing in order to achieve these changes. In addition, the thesis also considered the theoretical implications of these changes on food security in the Western Cape. Three research approaches were employed: qualitative case studies of seven progressive farmers in the region; a literature review; and an analysis of secondary data. Throughout these three approaches, Swilling and Annecke’s conceptualisation of a multifaceted global polycrisis was used as a conceptual reference point. This was done with the intention of providing an agricultural analysis which looks beyond the farm gate and takes cognisance of the broader socio-ecological issues which affect and are affected by agriculture. The research identified seven farmers who are shifting towards lower-external-input production methods, which focus on enhancing beneficial partnerships with natural systems. The on-site interviews and observations revealed that the degree to which these seven farmers were altering their practices varied significantly. However, four key technologies and practices were identified as being common to all seven farmers: the use of legume rotations, reduced tillage, new styles of planters and increasing farm size. With regard to food security, the research suggested that current changes in these farmers’ agricultural practices could assist in keeping food prices and food production levels more stable in future, compared to production using high-external-input practices previously employed by the farmers. The potential improvement in production stability was shown to result mainly from improvements in soil health, as these improvements give crops increased resilience to unfavourable weather conditions, greater disease-resistance and improved vitality. The potential improvement in price stability stemmed predominantly from increased input-use efficiency and the utilisation of natural fertility and pest-management practices which were less susceptible to monopolistic input sales structures, international shortages and the increasing cost of fossil fuels. Due to the small size of the case study sample and the fact that this research focussed specifically on farmers who were considered progressive, the findings presented in this thesis cannot be viewed as representative of the larger agricultural region. The intention was rather to establish the positive changes currently underway, in order to provide useful pointers for similarly beneficial changes to be implemented elsewhere.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die doel van hierdie tesis was om vas te stel of voorbeelde bestaan van kommersiële graanboere in die Swartlandgebied van Suid Afrika wat wegbeweeg van hoë-eksterne-inset produksie sisteme na sisteme wat gebasseer is op vennootskappe met grond en ander natuurlike sisteme. Die doel van dié vennootskappe isom ekologiese herstellingte bewerkstellig. Die navorsing het ook gepoog om te verstaan hoekom hierdie boere hulle boerderytegniekeverander; spesifieke tegnologieë en praktyke wat gebruik word om verandering mee te bringis ondersoek. Daarenbowe oorweeg hierdie tesis ook die teoretiese implikasies van die veranderings op voedselsekuriteit in die Wes-Kaap. Drie navorsings benaderings is te werk gestel: kwalitatiewe gevallestudies van sewe vooruitstrewende boere in die area; ‘n literatuurstudie; en ‘n analise van sekondêre data. Swilling en Annecke se konsepsualisering van die veelvoudig-gefasetteerde globale polikrisis is deurlopend gebruik as ‘n konsepsuele verwysingspunt. Dit is gedoen om‘n boerdery analise daar te stel wat verby die plaashek kyk na wyer maatskaplike en ekologiese kwessies wat ‘n wederkerige verhouding met boerdery het. Die navorsing het sewe boere geidentifiseer wat na laer-eksterne-inset produksie metodes beweeg. Hierdie metodes fokus daarop om voordelige verhoudings met natuurlike sisteme te versterk. Onderhoude en waarnemings op die plase het vasgestel dat die graad van praktykverandering merkwaardig tussen die sewe boere verskil. Nietemin, vier gemeenskaplike sleuteltegnologieëenpraktyke is geidentifiseer: die rotasie van peulgewasse, verminderde grondbewerking, nuwe plantermodelle en die vergroting van plaasgroottes. Met betrekking tot voedselsekuriteit vind die navorsing dat huidige veranderings in die wyse waarop geboer word, in vergelyking met die voorafgaande hoe-eksterne-inset produksie praktyke, kospryse en produksievlakke kan stabiliseer. Die navorsing wys daarop dat ‘npotensiële verbetering in produksie stabiliteit ‘n uitkoms van gesonder grond is. Gesonder grond verhoog gewasse se vermoëom effektief op ongunstige weerkondisies te reageer, bevorder hulle pes-afweringvermoë en verbeter die lewenskragtigheid van gewasse. Die potensiele verbetering in die stabiliteit van pryse is ‘n nagevolg van meer effektiewe gebruik van insette en die gebruik van natuurlike vrugbaarheid en pesbestuurpraktyke wat minder vatbaar is vir monopolistiese inset-verkoopstrukture, internasionale tekorte en die prysverhoging van fossielbrandstowwe. Na aanleiding van die klein skaal van die gevallestudies en die feit dat die navorsing spesifiek gefokus het op vooruitstrewende boere, verteenwoordig die bevindings in hierdie tesis nie die omliggende landbou area nie. Die veronderstelling was eerder om die positiewe veranderings wat tans onderweg is vas te stel om sodoende bruikbare advies aan soortgelyke voordelige veranderings wat elders geimplementeer kan word te verskaf.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/6716
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