The design, implementation and assessing of an agroecological cropping system by rural KwaZulu-Natal households : its effect on their diet and food security

Strachan, Brian Douglas (2014-04)

Thesis(MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2014

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis documents a Participatory Action Research (PAR) project conducted from 2011 to 2013 in a rural communal area in southern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The area is a microcosm of the global environmental and socio-economic polycrisis; with adult unemployment at 50 percent, 73 percent female-headed households, heavy dependence on government social grants and a food system reliant on purchased food. Eight, mainly female-headed households (the co-researchers), assisted by the student researcher, implemented and assessed a cropping system, designed on agroecological principles, on their abandoned garden plots. The objective was to grow culturally acceptable food crops to supplement their household diets and positively affect their food security. The student researcher provided the necessary infrastructure, including goat-proof plot fences, hand tools, a grain hammermill, seed, and fertiliser. The literature review, which also used early 1900’s photographs and contemporary isiZulu language as evidence, revealed the agroecological basis of pre-colonial agriculture. However, colonial and apartheid influences destroyed this knowledge base. The cropping system design utilized practices from this pre-colonial era combined with current agroecological techniques. The agroecological techniques employed on the plots included non-inversion tillage of planting pits using garden forks, precision placement of phosphate fertiliser and animal manures, open pollinated seeds, east-west orientated strip cropping, soil surface mulches, crop rotations including legumes and the use of chickens to control pests. Dryland crops included maize, beans, sweet potatoes, and butternuts, with small trial vegetable patches on some plots. The research identified a method to calculate the planting frequency of these vegetables to ensure a constant annual supply, however further research is needed. The dryland crops supplemented household diets between harvests. The formation of structured groups amongst the households proved vital to the success of the cropping system, providing mutual labour assistance, shared decision-making, building knowledge and moral support. The importance of dialogue and trust, reinforced by the student researcher’s ability to communicate in isiZulu with the co-researchers, formed the basis of both the PAR, and Focus Group Discussions(FGD), used to qualitative assess the cropping system. During these, the households reported a good understanding of the agroecological principles of the cropping system, a willingness to continue with it post research, and positive benefits, including better health, and money saved on food purchases, redirected to improve their asset base. The World Food Programme (2008) Food Consumption Score Analysis Method (FCS), modified to show the percentage contribution of homegrown food to the FCS, provided the quantitative assessment of the cropping system. The FCS scores rose during the research, with homegrown food contributing over a third of the FCS at times. The co-researchers suggested instituting group ‘stokvels’1to finance inputs and maintain infrastructure post research. The financial implications of these ‘stokvels’ was calculated. Due to the initial success of the PAR, the research recommends a method to extend the cropping system to more households, utilizing state finance to provide the infrastructure, and the co-researchers imparting technical knowledge through farmer-to-farmer extension.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In hierdie tesis word verslag gedoen van ’n deelnemende aksienavorsingsprojek wat van 2011 tot 2013 in ’n landelike dorpsgebied in die suide van KwaZulu-Natal, Suid-Afrika, uitgevoer is. Die gebied is ’n mikrokosmos van die wêreldwye omgewings- en sosio-ekonomiese polikrisis, met volwasse werkloosheid op 50%, 73% huishoudings met vroue aan die hoof, swaar afhanklikheid van die staat se maatskaplike toelae en ’n voedselstelsel wat van gekoopte kos afhanklik is. In die studie het agt huishoudings, wat hoofsaaklik vroue aan die hoof het (die medenavorsers), met behulp van die studentenavorser, ’n verbouingstelsel, wat op agro-ekologiese beginsels gegrond is, op hul verlate tuingrond geïmplementeer en geassesseer. Die doel was om kultureel aanvaarbare gewasse te verbou om hul huishoudelike dieet aan te vul en hul voedselsekerheid positief te beïnvloed. Die studentenavorser het die nodige infrastruktuur verskaf, met inbegrip van bokbestande omheining, handgereedskap, ’n graanhamermeul, saad en kunsmis. Die literatuurstudie, waarin foto’s uit die 1900’s en moderne Zoeloe as bewyse gebruik is, toon die agro-ekologiese grondslag van prekoloniale landbou. Koloniale en apartheidsinvloede het egter hierdie kennisbasis vernietig. Die verbouingstelselontwerp was gegrond op praktyke uit hierdie prekoloniale era gekombineer met moderne agro-ekologiese tegnieke. Hierdie tegnieke het ingesluit nie-inversie-grondbewerking van plantgate met gebruik van tuinvurke, presisieplasing van fosfaatkunsmis en dieremis, oop bestuifde sade, oos–wes-georiënteerde strookverbouing, grondoppervlak-deklae, wisselbou met onder andere peulgewasse en die gebruik van hoenders om peste te beheer. Droëland-gewasse het ingesluit mielies, bone, soetpatats en botterskorsies, met klein toetsgroenteakkers op sommige stukke grond. ’n Metode is in die navorsing geïdentifiseer om te bepaal hoe gereeld hierdie groente geplant moet word om ’n konstante jaarlikse voorraad te verseker. Verdere navorsing is egter nodig. Die droëland-gewasse het huishoudelike diëte tussen oeste aangevul. Die vorming van gestruktureerde groepe onder die huishoudings het noodsaaklik geblyk te wees vir die sukses van die verbouingstelsel, waardeur wedersydse hulp met arbeid, gedeelde besluitneming, die bou van kennis en morele ondersteuning gebied is. Die belangrikheid van dialoog en vertroue, wat versterk is deur die studentenavorser se vermoë om in Zoeloe met die medenavorsers te kommunikeer, het die grondslag gevorm van die deelnemende aksienavorsingsprojek asook die fokusgroeponderhoude, wat gebruik is om die verbouingstelsel kwalitatief te assesseer. In hierdie onderhoude het die huishoudings verslag gedoen van hul grondige begrip van die agro-ekologiese beginsels van die verbouingstelsel, hul gewilligheid om ná die navorsing daarmee voort te gaan, asook die voordele wat dit bied, soos beter gesondheid en geld wat op voedselaankope gespaar is, wat heraangewend is om hul batebasis te verbeter. Die Wêreldvoedingsprogram (2008) se Food Consumption Score- (FCS-)ontledingsmetode, wat aangepas is om die persentasie bydrae van selfgekweekte voedsel tot die FCS aan te toon, is gebruik vir die kwantitatiewe assessering van die verbouingstelsel. Die FCS-tellings het tydens die navorsing toegeneem, met selfgekweekte voedsel wat by tye tot meer as ’n derde tot die FCS bygedra het. Die medenavorsers het voorstel dat ’n stokvel gestig word om insette te finansier en die infrastruktuur ná die navorsing in stand te hou. Die finansiële implikasies van hierdie stokvel is bereken. Op grond van die aanvanklike sukses van die deelnemende aksienavorsingsprojek stel die navorser ’n metode voor om die verbouingstelsel na meer huishoudings uit te brei met behulp van staatsfinansiering om die infrastruktuur te verskaf asook die oordrag van die medenavorsers se tegniese kennis na ander boere.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/86234
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