In developing rural areas of South Africa that are mainly occupied by small-scale farmers, the productivity of tropical/subtropical fruits is relatively low. This study has been focusing on the opportunities and constraints faced by small-scale farmers on irrigated and dryland orchards farms in Venda. This was done by attempting to gain realistic understanding of what shapes small-scale farmers and how the various influencing factors can be adjusted so that, taken together, they produce more beneficial outcomes. The specific objectives of the study were to look at the cropping practices by smallholders in Venda for the purpose of acquiring a sound insight in present status, future and constraints of tropical/ subtropical fruit production based on literature and case study; understand the needs and aspirations of these farmers, and to ascertain how support rendered to small-scale farmers can be improved. In order to satisfy these objectives, a questionnaire was developed for specific use among small-scale farmers and a sample of 66 respondents was drawn from Tshakhuma, Muledane, Mukula and Tshifudi areas in Venda. A questionnaire also included details on personal characteristics of farmers, cropping practices and their problems. Frequency tables were utilized to analyse the data. The results of this study indicated that the there is a significant relationship amongst the cropping techniques. Looking at the orchard size and the type of fertilizers applied by the farmers, it has been revealed that farmers owning the small size of the land mostly apply the organic fertilizers, while depending on the family labour. The results also indicated that farmers owning dryland orchards apply the inputs differently from those who practice irrigation farming. Most of the farmers who practice irrigation farming, as compared to dryland farmers, apply inputs such as inorganic fertilizers, supplemental water through irrigation, and hire labourers. A review of historical background of Vhavenda people was also included in this study to look at their attitudes towards developmental issues. Among the Vhavenda people there are a number of cultural factors which tend to impact on socio-economic development. These factors, among others, include traditional and polygamous marriages, male dominated authorities, sharing of goods, worshiping of ancestors, and extended families. Historical background indicated that modern cropping methods of tropical/subtropical fruit production are not part of Vhavenda culture, and as a result people relied on indigenous fruits of veld and relishes for their diet. A survey on climatic conditions and current situation revealed the extent of cropping practices on tropical/subtropical fruit production with regard to small-scale farming techniques, and limiting factor on production and marketing of tropical/ subtropical fruits in Venda. Areas in Venda where small-scale tropical/subtropical farmers is actively practiced and where the research was conducted, small-scale farmers were divided into three categories, namely, home garden owners, farmers who produce under dryland conditions, and the farmers who produce under irrigation systems. It was clear that the study areas had a great potential with regard to physical aspects that promote sustainable production of tropical/subtropical fruits, but this potential is not fully utilized. The reasons for failure of tropical/subtropical fruit projects are ascribed to be uneconomic farm units, lack of knowledge and skills, lack of funding, lack of reliable markets due to fruit loss at the storage facilities, lack of infrastructure in general and lack of land use planning and management. Mismanagement of orchards in the research areas has resulted in poor cropping performance (yield). It was evident that in this survey that the infrastructure used by the farmers is poor. In terms of support service, small-scale farmers faced serious challenges as they depend on their incomes to render cropping practices. It is difficult whether or not they will function independently in the long run. It seems unlikely that small-scale farmers can survive if struck by a sudden disaster such as fire or drought. Small-scale farmers need an extremely diverse range of training to facilitate the development of managerial and technical skills. Results of this study revealed that the type of support needed by the farmers include the financial assistance, training, technical advice, marketing of fruits and advice on marketing, continued assistance on existing tropical/subtropical fruit projects, and assistance in acquiring a farm or more land.
Dissertation (M Inst Agrar (Plant Production: Horticulture))--University of Pretoria, 2007.