This study was undertaken at a smallholder irrigation scheme in the previously disadvantaged rural area of Mamuhohi in the Limpopo Province. Like other smallholder irrigation schemes in South Africa, Mamuhohi Irrigation Scheme has not performed particularly well. The expectations of interveners like politicians, development agencies and planners have not been realised in smallholder irrigation schemes. Constraints faced by smallholder farmers include a history of dependency; the high costs of mechanisation; the absence of credit, inputs, and output markets; insecure land tenure; “hedgehog behaviour” among smallholders; lack of funding; and poor management and maintenance of infrastructure. The White Paper on Agriculture (NDA, 1995) clearly set out government‘s intention to withdraw subsidies previously enjoyed by farmers and to ensure that the real costs of natural resources are reflected in the pricing of resources in order to discourage abuse. This resulted in the enacting of laws like the new National Water Act of 1998 (DWAF, 1998), aimed at sustainable water management. This included the rehabilitation of infrastructure prior to transfer, and the establishment of water users’ associations amongst farmers, which were to take over ownership and collective management of the schemes. The overall objective of the study was therefore to assess the sustainability and, more specifically, the economic viability of smallholder irrigation schemes in South Africa in the context of irrigation transfer. Hypothesis to be tested: <ul> The behaviour of smallholder farmers is diverse and is reflected in the way in which they view farming and engage in agricultural practices. </ul> The study also sought to indicate the existence of diversity in the smallholder irrigation scheme, by exposing different types of smallholder farmers within the scheme. This information should be of great importance in assisting smallholder farmers regarding issues of their own development. The findings will also help to curb the generalisation of developers’ perceptions regarding smallholder irrigation farmers. Smallholder irrigation farmers are feeling the full impact of the withdrawal of government assistance from the irrigation schemes, which have deteriorated to a state of partial collapse. A great need among farmers remains the rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure, which would enable them to farm their land. As indicated earlier, the study found that diverse types of smallholder farmers exist within the irrigation scheme. This indicates that appropriate information in this regard is important for government in the formulation of policies aimed at the development of such farmers. Through this study, four types of smallholder farmers were identified within the same irrigation scheme. The methodology applied in achieving the aforementioned outputs pursued a specific sequence, starting with the formulation of questions. The particular study area was chosen due to the likelihood of the presence of different types of farmers that could be identified through the study. A list of the names of smallholders and other key information was provided by the local agricultural office. This assisted with the identification of people to be interviewed. The preliminary interviews were conducted with a sample size of 25 farmers and were aimed at gaining a better understanding of the people within the study area. The questionnaire used during these interviews contained open-ended questions that allowed respondents to express their views and make suggestions. This led to the development of a questionnaire consisting of closed-ended questions, aimed at eliciting responses that were relevant to the purpose of the survey. The questions were also as simple as possible to ensure that they would be clearly understood by both the interviewer and the respondents. About four weeks were spent in trying to understand the real setup of the study area and the lifestyle of the local community. The second step in the methodological sequence was the collection of data from 60 farmers. These interviews were conducted with the assistance of two extension officers. It was not possible to interview all the farmers at once, and it took about two weeks to interview all 60 farmers. Fortunately, the farmers were extremely co-operative throughout the entire interview process. The third step in the methodological sequence was the processing of the data collected during the interviews. The typology here was developed by means of qualitative analysis and had to be refined over a period of time to ensure a valid typology of farmers. This necessitated the use of other data analysis tools, which ultimately contributed towards the classification of farmers according to different types. Four types of farmers were eventually identified, namely: Highly intensive maize growers; Vegetable growers; Diversified maize growers; and Intensive diversified growers. Lastly, the conclusion that can be drawn from the research is that any attempt to develop smallholder irrigation farmers requires an understanding of their diversity – hence this study’s intention to identify, in a scientific manner, the existence of such diversity. Understanding diversity amongst farmers also requires an understanding of the different strategies that farmers employ to ensure their livelihood. This means that both the socio-economic and institutional setting of such farmers must be understood.
Dissertation (MInstAgrar)--University of Pretoria, 2010.