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University of Pretoria (South Africa) 2005

Economic performance of smallholder irrigation schemes : A case study in Zanyokwe, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Ntsonto, Njokweni Elliot

Titre : Economic performance of smallholder irrigation schemes : A case study in Zanyokwe, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Auteur : Ntsonto, Njokweni Elliot

Université de soutenance : University of Pretoria (South Africa)

Grade : M Inst Agrar (Agricultural Economics) (2005)

This study has been carried out in one irrigation scheme of the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. The study assessed the economic performance of a smallholder irrigation scheme (Zanyokwe Irrigation Scheme). The study took place in a former homeland area (Ciskei). This region is submitted to a semi-arid and relatively mild climate. The infrastructures were built during the apartheid era, in order to provide employment and food to the local black population. Currently, the farmers crop from 1 to 10 hectares, producing vegetables and maize with low productivity. The government has engaged in a revitalization process, aimed at upgrading infrastructures and establishing new local organisations. Its objectives are to curtail the financial burden of operation and maintenance costs and withdraw from any direct farming activities and management of the schemes. The process includes the rehabilitation of infrastructure and establishment of Water User’s Associations, which are to take over ownership and collective management of the scheme. In such context the aims of the research were : (i) To evaluate the diversity of livelihoods and the contribution of farming ; (ii) To estimate productivity of land and water ; (iii) To identify factors influencing production at farm level ; (iv) To examine the role of land tenure onto productivity. The conceptual framework for operation of an irrigation scheme, the Smile (sustainable management of irrigated land and environment) approach, the sustainable livelihood framework and descriptive statistics were used for analysis of the data. Primary data were obtained from 55 randomly selected households from the Zanyokwe Irrigation Scheme. Verbal description, interpretation and appreciation of facts were used for the qualitative data analysis. Descriptive statistics and typologies were employed to analyse the quantitative data. Findings indicate that irrigation households pursue heterogeneous livelihood strategies due to different access to livelihood assets and heterogeneous constraints and incentives. A socioeconomic comparison on the land size indicates that land size in the scheme is not uniform, it varies from one person to another. Land tenure in Zanyokwe is very diverse. It is highlighted that land tenure does not seem to have impact onto the farming style adopted by farmers, with the exception of leasing which is not practised by non-farming holders and dry-land farmers. It is demonstrated that there is no direct or clear relationship between land tenure system and farming styles, farmer’s types, or cropping systems adopted. It is indicated that farmers under leasing arrangement are having small size, few years of settlement and youngest household head. Leasing arrangement is relatively new tenure in the scheme. The level of education in the scheme is very low. It is observed that more educated farmers have larger size of land in the scheme. The diversity of the farmer’s situation has been highlighted through the use of typological techniques. Five household types have been identified within the scheme, and thorough economic analyses have been carried out. Particularly, some vulnerable types of farmers have been identified. The results on irrigation performance indicate that productivity of water varies among crop management styles. For example, potato and butternut (high-yield) showed R2.55 and R1.75 as gross margin per cubic meter used respectively, and potato and butternut (low yield) showed R0.09 and R0.14 as gross margin per cubic meter used respectively, is measured in terms of gross margin per volume of irrigation water consumed as an estimate for return to irrigation water. Contingent analysis of willingness to pay indicated that farmers with limited demand, hence limited income from irrigation farming are not willing to pay, and it also suggests that farmers with high consumption of water are willing to pay for water related activities. Findings indicate that land productivity (yield/ha) is higher for specialised subsistence farmers than others types, per unit of land used The following recommendation arises on the basis of the findings of this study and evidence from other studies on smallholder irrigation in South Africa. Agriculture is likely to be a necessary feature of rural development in the Eastern Cape Province for years to come. It is highly recommended that intensification should be promoted along with training, and improved access to inputs at reasonable cost since high yielding crops are more profitable and more conducive to water valuation, and high yields come with intensification, since one given crop can perform very differently depending on the way it is grown.


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