Lower external input farming methods as a more sustainable-solution for small-scale farmers

Kelly, Candice
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The main aims of this thesis were to assess the sustainability of the original Green Revolution (GR) farming methods for small-scale farmers in developing countries, to identify alternative farming methods which may be more sustainable and to comment on the New GR for Africa, currently being promoted by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). A key element of the thesis was primary research done in India, in order to gather the experience of selected small-scale farmers in that country who had converted from GR to low-external input farming methods. The experience of the farmers in India was used to highlight points made in the thesis. Both primary and secondary data were used to inform the study. Firstly, a literature review was conducted in order to assess the original GR, identify alternative farming methods and gather information on the New GR for Africa. In order to assess sustainability, a framework was developed which defined sustainability at a global level and also at the level of the individual small-scale farmer. This framework was based on a discussion of sustainable development and the sustainable livelihoods approach. Key elements of GR and alternative farming methods were identified and assessed according to this framework. Secondly, primary data was gathered in India from a group of small-scale farmers who had taken part in a programme by a nongovernmental organisation called Dharamitra. The data was collected through semistructured interviews and participant observation techniques. This data was used in order to illustrate points made in the literature review. The study concluded that many elements of farming methods from the original GR are unsustainable, both globally and at the level of the small-scale farmer. The main findings were that GR farming methods caused damage to the environment and in particular made small-scale farmers reliant on external inputs. Alternative farming methods which used organic and low external input approaches were found to enhance and preserve the environment, while at the same time being more affordable for small-scale farmers. The experience of the farmers interviewed in India confirmed these findings and provided a useful illustration of concepts presented from the literature review. Lastly, the New GR for Africa was found to present elements of the original GR which are unsustainable for small-scale farmers, especially in terms of the reliance that would be created on external inputs. The study concluded with recommendations around the need to promote farming methods to small-scale farmers which promote better care of the environment and are better able to promote sustainable livelihoods, namely organic or low external input methods. Recommendations were also made regarding the need for further research into the influence of AGRA’s policies and documentation of sustainable farming practices in Africa.
Thesis (MPhil (Sustainable Development Planning and Management))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.
Small-scale farming, Sustainable development, Sustainable agriculture, Green Revolution, Agricultural innovations in Africa, Dissertations -- Public management and planning, Theses -- Public management and planning