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Wageningen Universiteit (1999)

Design for participation in ecologically sound management of South Africa’s Mlazi River catchment

Auerbach, R.

Titre : Design for participation in ecologically sound management of South Africa’s Mlazi River catchment

Auteur : Auerbach, R.

Université de soutenance  : Wageningen Universiteit

Grade : PhD thesis 1999

Without local participation, integrated catchment management and Landcare will not become a general reality in South Africa. With support from the South African Water Research Commission, the University of Natal’s Farmer Support Group set up the Ntshongweni Catchment Management Programme (NCMP) as a practical participatory action research investigation of ecological farming systems, integrated catchment management and Landcare. Local experience played a crucial role in helping to build credible local networks and to understand the importance of design for a sustainable future. Since small scale agriculture in South Africa faces four major constraints (aridity, poverty, access to land and local leadership) main aspects of design were : ecological farm design for efficient water and nutrient use, community garden design for production with low risk of crop failure and low levels of purchased external inputs, environmental education design and design for communication. Practical work led to the design of a prototype of an ecologically sound community garden.
To address the risks associated with farming in South Africa’s dry and often unpredictable climate, a rainwater harvesting system was set up on Bachs Fen Ecological Research Farm, as part of the ecological farming system. Water from the hill and highway above the farm flows through a wetland system. The wetland slows down the flow and purifies the water, and has a significant water storage function. At present 0.4 ha of vegetables is irrigated using over-exploited groundwater resources. The rainwater harvesting system makes it possible to irrigate one hectare using the water harvested from the wetlands instead of groundwater. At the same time, groundwater recharge is improved through increased rainfall infiltration. Bachs Fen is seven hectares in extent, and is one possible model of a small scale commercial farm which is ecologically sound, economically viable and efficient in terms of water use. The development of farms in the range of five to fifty hectares is vital, if land reform and reconstruction and development are to lead to rural areas which do not exclude most of the rural people who currently live there.

Mots clés : resource management / water resources / water harvesting / learning / participation / organic farming / design / small farms / rural communities / schools / south africa


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