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University of Fort Hare (2014)

Water footprint of growing vegetables in selected smallholder irrigation schemes in South Africa

Nyambo Patrick

Titre : Water footprint of growing vegetables in selected smallholder irrigation schemes in South Africa

Auteur : Nyambo Patrick

Université de soutenance : University of Fort Hare

Grade : M.Sc (Soil Science) 2014

Knowledge of water use, through water foot printing (WF) in smallholder agriculture crop production is the key to the global fight against poverty, achievement of food security and sustainability within the world’s rural community. Water footprint of a crop can be defined as the volume of fresh water used to produce a certain crop in all the steps in the production line. This study, therefore aimed at contributing towards improvements in rural livelihoods by raising awareness of the increased productive use of green, blue and grey water in smallholder agriculture in South Africa. This was done through determination of water footprints of five vegetable crops, i.e. potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum), dry beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), cabbage (Brassica oleracea spp) and spinach (Spinacia oleracea) in the 2000-2013 period. Quantification of water footprints has been done worldwide but, in South Africa (SA) focus has mostly been on the industrial and domestic sector. Water footprint assessment framework, was used to estimate the full impact of vegetable production on water resources at Zanyokwe, Thabina and Tugela Ferry irrigation schemes as case studies. The CROPWAT@ model was used to calculate crop evapotranspiration, differentiating green and blue water. Local climatic data were obtained from SA weather services, while the crop and soil parameters were obtained from the FAO data base. Nitrogen was considered the main pollutant hence its use in the grey water footprint calculation. Generally, Thabina irrigation scheme had the highest water footprint, followed by Tugela Ferry irrigation scheme whilst Zanyokwe irrigation scheme had the lowest. Green beans had the highest water footprint at all the three irrigation schemes with Thabina irrigation scheme having the highest (3535.1 m3/ton). For Tugela Ferry irrigation scheme, the calculated WF was 2753 m3/ton whilst the lowest was observed at ZIS i.e. 2407.6 m3/ton. Cabbage had the lowest water footprint. The highest water footprint for growing cabbage was 254.5 m3/ton in TFIS, 223.1 m3/ton in TIS and the lowest was 217.8 m3/ton in ZIS. The differences observed in the WF of a crop at each scheme maybe attributed to the differences management, weather and environmental characteristics, in the three locations. Moreover, the needs for ET are related to soil type and plant growth, and primarily depend on crop development and climatic factors which are closely related to climatic demands. The grey water footprint was calculated using the recommended fertilizer application rates for all the three sites. Green beans had the highest WFgrey i.e. 373 m3/ton and the lowest was cabbage with 37 m3/ton. Potato, spinach and tomatoes had 156 m3/ton, 214 m3/ton and 132 m3/ton, respectively. Grey water footprint in this study was higher as compared to other studies, possibly because of the high rates of nitrogen fertilizers used in the calculations and the low yields farmers get. Compared with estimates from other studies, the water footprints of vegetable production within smallholder irrigation schemes was relatively high. There is therefore, a need to focus on crop management and tillage practices that will help in increasing yield while minimizing water usage.

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