Small-scale agriculture is the production of crops and livestock on a small-piece of land without using advanced and expensive technologies. Though the definition of size of these farms is a source of debate, it can be argued that farming on family pieces of land, on traditional lands and smallholdings on the periphery of urban areas, fall in this category. This type of farming is usually characterised by intensive labour and in most cases, animal traction, limited use of agrochemicals and supply to the local or surrounding markets. Unlike large-scale commercial agriculture, it plays a dual role of being a source of household food security as well as income from sale of surplus. Although some claim small-scale agriculture is less efficient in output as compared to commercial agriculture (Kirsten & Van Zyl, 1998), it is ecologically friendly in that less land is cleared for cultivation, there are less emissions due to less use of fuel-driven machinery and the market is usually local implying less carbon miles. On the other hand permaculturalists and others claim that per unit of area small-scale agriculture is far more productive than commercial agriculture in terms of total output from the piece of land. Economically, small scale agriculture enhances local economic development as it is a source of employment and keeps most of the income local as the market is predominantly localised. Socially, especially on traditional lands, the produce is first meant to feed the household thereby contributing to food security.
Despite this importance, small-scale farming is slowly being less practised due to a number of factors; such as reliance on limited technical and financial support, indifference among the youth to farming, government policies that are in most cases not area-specific, and reliance on other livelihood sources such as formal employment and social grants. The other problem is that agricultural technological institutions have been sidelined in the agrarian agenda and are therefore not making a meaningful impact in the sector.
This article is a collation of summaries of some presentations made at a seminar hosted by Afesis-corplan on Small Scale/Holder Agriculture in November 2011. Topics discussed included; permaculture, the role of agricultural technical institutions, de-agrarianisation versus job creation and household food security, and the University of South Africa (UNISA) household food security model. The seminar, facilitated by Dr P Moyo from the University of Fort Hare, was aimed at sharing of views on the role and plight of small scale agriculture.
Click on the links below for some of the summaries:
- Promoting the UNISA Household Food Security model in the Eastern Cape Province;
- Agricultural Training Institutions’ (ATIs) response to small scale agriculture in South Africa;
- The pros and cons of permaculture versus conventional food production in a new climate change and peak oil context;
- Agrarianisation or De-Agrarianisation in Eastern Cape? Implications to employment creation in the agricultural sector.
- Lashiola Kutya is resource and information coordinator at Afesis-corplan. This article first appeared in the January/February/March 2012 edition of the Transformer.