Assessing the impact of sustainable farming techniques on smallholder farm enterprises in Zimbabwe

Masunda, Fanuel (2014-04)

Thesis (MPhil) Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The aim of this thesis was to investigate if the Conservation Agriculture (CA) project being implemented by Zimbabwe Farmers Alliance Trust, a non-governmental organisation, has improved the livelihoods of participant farmers. The research was done in the Mazowe, Chiweshe area where the organisation has been working with farmers with the key objectives of improving food security, livelihoods and stabilising production for the rural households. The research also looked at production trends and adoption levels of CA in the area. Yields were viewed as an important element since food security of rural communities is constantly under threat because of droughts. A key element of the thesis was primary research done in Mazowe Chiweshe Ward 4, where farmers were interviewed to get information on their experiences with the CA project. The study was informed by both primary and secondary data. A literature review was conducted to give a background on sustainability and multifaceted problems facing the globe; dubbed as a polycrisis. In order to assess the impact of the project, a framework was developed to define sustainability at global level and also at small-scale farmer level. The Sustainable Livelihoods Approach framework was used as the assessment tool that looks at capital assets as given by Conway and Chambers. The framework goes beyond financial gains and looks at capabilities, assets and activities required for a means of living. The CA project was thus assessed according to this framework as a yardstick for improvement of livelihoods in the area. Primary data was gathered from a sample of 25 farmers randomly selected from a total of 250 farmers involved in the project under ZFAT. The data was gathered through questionnaires, key informant interviews and participant observation techniques. With regards to the adoption of CA and its principles, the research suggested that farmers are eager to practice sustainable agriculture, but the scale of the project is too small to expand the project to more than the 250 farmers already in this project. It was also found that non-governmental organisations have played a significant role in introducing sustainable farming and that the government now need to step up efforts in supporting the projects. The study concluded that the CA project has improved livelihoods and is helping to stabilise production through sustainable land use and advanced farm management practices. The project has not only benefited the direct project beneficiaries or key participant farmers but also the environment as soil fertility is improving and biodiversity is being protected and enhanced. The programme has managed to create a mind-set in the community that; what we have today is a result of the way past generations operated and that we should feel challenged to leave behind a better-managed and flourishing environment for the next generation. This was concluded as a significant number of farmers in the interviews showed that they have changed perceptions since joining the project. The study concluded with recommendations for up-scaling of the project as well as the need for collaboration between relevant stakeholders. This would promote projects of similar nature that promote sustainability and sustainable livelihoods. However, the case study was specific to the Mazowe Chiweshe area and the findings presented in this thesis cannot be viewed as representative of the larger smallholder farming sector though it may provide relevant and positive pointers for similarly beneficial projects to be implemented elsewhere.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die doel van hierdie tesis was om te bepaal of die bewaringslandbouprojek van die nie-regeringsorganisasie Zimbabwe Farmers Alliance Trust (ZFAT) die deelnemende boere se lewens verbeter het. Die navorsing is in die Mazowe Chiweshe-gebied onderneem, waar die organisasie boere bystaan om landelike huishoudings se voedselsekerheid en lewensgehalte te verbeter en landbouproduksie te stabiliseer. Die navorsing het ook aandag geskenk aan produksietendense en die vlakke van aanvaarding van bewaringslandbou in die streek. Opbrengste is as ’n belangrike element beskou, aangesien droogte voortdurend die landelike gemeenskappe se voedselsekerheid bedreig. ’n Kerndeel van die tesis was primêre navorsing wat in Wyk 4 van Mazowe Chiweshe onderneem is, in die vorm van onderhoude met boere om inligting in te samel oor hul ervarings van die bewaringslandbouprojek. Die studie is deur sowel primêre as sekondêre data gerig. ’n Literatuuroorsig is onderneem vir agtergrond oor volhoubaarheid, sowel as oor die veelsoortige probleme waarmee die wêreld te kampe het en wat as die ‘polikrisis’ bekend staan. Om die impak van die projek te beoordeel, is ’n raamwerk ontwikkel om volhoubaarheid op algemene sowel as kleinboervlak te omskryf. Conway en Chambers se ‘volhoubare bestaan’-benadering is as assesseringsinstrument gebruik om kapitaalbates te beoordeel. Die raamwerk strek egter verder as finansiële gewin en ondersoek ook die vermoëns, bates en aktiwiteite wat nodig is vir ’n volhoubare bestaan. Aan die hand van hierdie raamwerk is daar dus beoordeel tot watter mate die bewaringslandbouprojek plaaslike mense se lewens verbeter het. Primêre data is ingesamel uit ’n steekproef van 25 boere wat aan die ZFAT-projek deelneem. Die data is met behulp van vraelyste, onderhoude met sleutelinformante sowel as deelnemerwaarnemingstegnieke bekom. Wat die aanvaarding van bewaringslandbou en die beginsels daarvan betref, toon die navorsing dat boere gretig is om volhoubare landbou te bedryf, maar dat die skaal van die projek te klein is om meer as die bestaande 250 boere in die projek te help. Daar is ook bevind dat nie-regeringsorganisasies ’n beduidende rol gespeel het in die inwerkingstelling van volhoubare boerdery, maar dat die regering nou sy pogings ter ondersteuning van die projek moet versterk. Die studie kom tot die gevolgtrekking dat die bewaringslandbouprojek, deur volhoubare grondgebruik en gevorderde bestuurspraktyke, lewensgehalte verbeter en produksie gestabiliseer het. Nie net die deelnemende boere het by die projek baat gevind nie, maar ook die omgewing, aangesien grondvrugbaarheid verbeter en biodiversiteit beskerm en versterk word. Die studie sluit af met aanbevelings oor die uitbreiding van die projek, sowel as die behoefte aan samewerking met tersaaklike belanghebbendes. Dit sal ander soortgelyke projekte vir volhoubaarheid en ’n volhoubare bestaan bevorder. Tog het die gevallestudie bepaald op die Mazowe Chiweshe-omgewing betrekking gehad en kan die bevindinge in hierdie tesis nie as verteenwoordigend van die groter kleinboersektor beskou word nie. Nietemin kan dit relevante en positiewe wenke bied vir soortgelyke voordelige projekte wat elders in werking gestel word.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/86232
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