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Stellenbosch University (2014)

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

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

Auteur : Strachan, Brian Douglas

Université de soutenance : Stellenbosch University

Grade : MPhil 2014

Résumé
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.

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Page publiée le 11 décembre 2014, mise à jour le 1er avril 2020