Small-Scale Farming - Way to Overcome Food Insecurity

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - 13:57
South Africa should invest in small-scale farming if it intends overcoming food insecurity, ending the culture of relying on social grants and also meeting the UN MDG 1


Practising Small scale farming is a good habit. By nthabiseng marutha velry
we her all the things said by the government to help the small farmers but when it comes to deliver it is very difficult
It would be good to see you join the conversation about the future of agricultural extension on the national extension policy dialogue site. It is essential that the voices of smallholder farmers and NGOs which work with them influence future policy direction. We are encouraging people to write short 400 word opinion pieces which we are publishing on the
Dear Butjwana I know that many NGOs and CBOs alike find it difficult to market and distribute their products, no matter what this may be. I have established a Market that operates from Melville in Jhb every Saturday from 9:00-2:00.  I am keen to get NGOs and CBOs that produces a product to come along to sell it at my market.  Vegetable and tree producing NGOs and CBOs are particularly welcome. Cyril
Maybe this lady who's farm it is can help the people of the community to start a co-operative and get them registered with the Department of Trade and Industry. The co-operative can then apply for funding on their behalf for the project and this might make the project successful.
Hi Thanks for such an interesting article and the relevancy. I've observed the challenges people in teh rural areas are experincing as a result of climate change. People are still struggling to adjust to the climate changes to a point where their harvests have declined. Some sort of awareness would really make a difference. Subsistance farmers contunue to plough during the same time that their fore fathers used to. Support and education/awareness on the climate changes will definately reduce the dependancy on the government for financial support. Regards, Katshie
Very interesting article. A friend of mine stays directly across the main road from Wheelers Farm, which poverty stricken. She has approx 30 acres of un used ground. She decided 4 yrs ago to approach the agri dept and drew up a proposal- Prepared to let the community of wheelers farm utilise the ground. Who ever was prepared to go along with this scheme, would be allocated a certain portion of the land, grow and produce vegetables for their own use, and sell the rest. To start of the project each family would be given the tools, seeds, fertilisers to get started. Once they start showing a profit, it would be up to them to provide seeds etc. This would be a great initiative for the community and to become self reliant and self sufficient. To date after much running around, getting everything together, whatever the dept required she responded imm. She is still waiting 4yrs later and has now decided to throw in the towel. This is total incompetence on the depts behalf. Very sad indeed.
That a state-funded institution like the SA Weather Service has to sell its forecasts to generate income is a crying shame. Send a fax to the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Ms Edna Molewa (fax: 012 336-7817 and 021 465-3362), and insist that the SAWS is sufficiently funded. Stephen Law, Environmental Monitoring Group
This is a Good One, right here in Nigeria, despite having vast arable land, the government has no clear cut policy for food production, the rural farmers sustains themselves with the inherited knowledge of farming handed down to them by their forebears. The country imports rice from Thailand while we have arable lands that can grow rice to feed the whole world, we import Canned Tomatoes from Italy, why tomatoes rots away in rural Jos area. I think African leaders need to wake up and start planning to feed the world and stop looting the continent dry.

I was born and raised in a rural area somewhere in the eastern side of Limpopo Lowveld. I never suffered from malnutrition or any other disease linked to food insecurity because my parents relied on small-scale farming to produce the food that we consumed as a family. Like many other families in my area, we have a piece of land where we plant crops depending on the season of the year. Many people in my community face a number of socio-economic hardships in their daily lives. To escape the reality of living under such hardships, they invest their time and energy into small-scale farming. It is for this reason that children from families that practice small-scale farming are not likely to suffer from diseases such as kwashiorkor, which is directly linked to food insecurity.

In order to overcome some of the socio-economic hardships already referred to, most unemployed adults in the area have no option but to rely on small-scale farming to sustain their families and generate income. The greatest benefit is the area has loam soil and one is not required to invest in buying fertilisers since it contains more nutrients and humus.

I am a bit worried that while the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries focuses on providing fertilisers to small-scale farmers in my area, other departments have not contributed anything to the sector. Fertilisers are not important especially because activists in the area are of the view that they have the potential to kill the microorganisms which play a key role in decomposing the organic matter in the soil. If this claim is anything to go by, the use of fertilisers could impact negatively on small-scale farming in future.

A few months after hosting the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17), we now live with the reality that climate change exists. All we need to do as a country is to empower small-scale farmers to make informed decisions, especially because they are affected by climate change.

Small-scale farmers operate within ever-changing and unpredictable weather patterns. It is time for the South African Weather Service (SAWS) to come to the party. We cannot continue to have the SAWS which does not even reach out to small-scale farmers when conveying weather-related information. I am one of the fortunate few South Africans who can access weather forecasts on the SAWS website, get weather information on radio or watch it on television. The sad thing is that many of our small-scale farmers do not have the luxury of accessing weather-related information.

I recently went to the SAWS website and found the following message - “Get weather insight for your farm in the palm of your hand by using our web product and SMS messages: R199 per month.” This message is aimed at commercial farmers – there is no doubt about it. Does this institution have a strategy in place to start updating small-scale farmers with useful information on weather, which will enable them to make more informed decisions when farming? Messages like this will not benefit majority of the small-scale farmers in the country, if one considers the country’s literacy.

Again, providing support to small-scale farmers will go a long in building healthy communities. Small-scale farming has many benefits. In South Africa for example, small-scale farming could enable many people, especially those living with HIV/AIDS to eat a healthy diet and also contribute to improving life expectancy. In addition, it could help majority of the 15 million social grants beneficiaries to also produce enough food. This will ease pressure on their social grants, which are often used for buying food and not other necessities in the household.

Even though small-scale farming does not contribute massively to overcoming food insecurity in many communities, it could enable communities to realise the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 1 of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. Our government should put its money where its mouth is. We cannot continue encouraging people to venture into a sector which we are not supporting as a country. By failing to build the capacity of small-scale farmers to be able to produce food; we are creating a hungry nation, promoting the culture of relying on social grants for survival, not improving life expectancy, and taking the country many steps backwards when it comes to nutrition. We need to follow on the footsteps of our parents’ generation, who grew crops to feed their families for many years.

- Butjwana Seokoma is information coordinator at SANGONeT. He continues to believe in the power of subsistence farming and describes agriculture as his greatest passion.


Butjwana Seokoma