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North-West University (2018)

Exploring water quality and farmers’ perceptions about water and food security in the Vaalharts Irrigation Scheme

Claassens, A.L.

Titre : Exploring water quality and farmers’ perceptions about water and food security in the Vaalharts Irrigation Scheme

Auteur : Claassens, A.L.

Université de soutenance : North-West University

Grade : Masters in Transdisciplinary Health Promotion 2018

Résumé
Food insecurity has been linked to increased risks of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease and, in the case of South Africa, disparities in terms of access to diverse diets, affect household food security status. The government of South Africa devised the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030 with an aim to address food insecurity by promoting rural development which includes an increase in irrigated agriculture. The plan is supported by the National Policy for Food and Nutrition Security (NPFNS) which acknowledges the four dimensions of food security, namely ; availability, access, utilisation and stability. Additionally, there is increasing interest in nutrition sensitive agriculture which, among other goals, aims to combine nutrition education with agriculture and prioritise sustainability and resilience within conservation concerns. Farm practices and interactions with natural resources may affect sustainable food security, particularly in a country where the agricultural sector struggles with a lack of availability of arable land and unreliable rainfall. Furthermore there is a need to consider the quality of natural resources. Water quality, for example, may impact crop health, yield, crop diversity and the stability of food production. This water should be managed, regularly monitored and maintained. It is within this context, that the National Water Act of 1998 serves as an important document emphasising water value as a common asset and holds all water users accountable for its protection, including farmers. This study explored the relationship between water quality and food security by integrating a quantitative analysis of water from the Vaalharts Irrigation Scheme with a qualitative exploration of perceptions of local farmers on water quality and food security. The water quality was deemed fit for irrigation use, with caution that prolonged irrigation use requires monitoring due to salinity and pH. Nitrates, phosphates and metals were within ideal ranges. Overall, farmers perceived the water quality negatively, but their perceptions were in line with salinity results. The integrated results indicated that farmers’ perceptions of water quality influenced the mitigation techniques they selected, without knowing the exact levels of constituents they were mitigating against. Farmers displayed practical knowledge in terms of salinity, and felt that knowing more about the quality of the water would benefit food production. Farmers considered negative influences of water quality to be external to the farm boundary.

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