Being part of the semi-arid, southern Kalahari, the Mier area has a complex and sensitive ecosystem, with a low carrying capacity. Factors, such as population growth, uneconomical farm units and restricted communal areas, have resulted in serious degradation of the natural resource base. Due to their strong agricultural history, the Mier community is generally still perceived as being agriculturally inclined, which easily leads to an overall main objective, namely "to stabilising the Mier community in their agricultural environment". Development and assistance initiatives mostly focus on the natural resource base. The majority of the Mier community, however, has undergone an evolutionary process which has changed their attitudes to agriculture. In order to determine the current role of agriculture, this study aims to identify the livelihood strategies of the Mier community in the dynamic sphere of conditions and trends, livelihood resources as well as institutional and organisational structures. The main socio-economic results are as follows: (a) forty-two percent of the total economically active age (EAA) group is unemployed, with the highest rate under EAA persons younger than 30, i.e. 58%; (b) households diversify in one or more of the following livelihood sustaining activities: (i) casual labour (49%), (ii) government allowances (50%), (iii) livestock agriculture (46%), (iv) permanent work (28%), (v) migrancy (33%), (vi) fruit/vegetable/pasture production for own consumption (28%), (vii) support through private transfers (21%), and (viii) small scale trading activities (11%); (c) households perceive the following as their most important livelihood strategies: government allowances for 43% of all households, permanent work for 21 %, casual labour for 16% and livestock for only 10% of all households. The following results from this study indicate that the role of agriculture is declining. (a) Fifty-four percent of the community do not own livestock. (b) Only 39% of people who are not full time involved in agriculture, are very interested in farming, 19% are fairly interested and 42% are not interested. Only 4% of the grade 10-12 pupils are very interested, 42% fairly interested and 54% not interested in agriculture. (c) None of the communal farmers regard their livestock as their main livelihood strategy. For them, livestock mainly playa supplementary role, supplying milk and sometimes meat. (d) For every 55 persons who perceive a lack of land as the major problem of the Mier area, 100 persons believe that it is rather a lack of employment opportunities. It is concluded that the image of the Mier community as being a farming community should change to a community looking urgently for alternative livelihood opportunities. Support through agricultural assistance would only benefit a limited part of the community and it would exclude many of the poorest households.
Dissertation (M Inst Agrar ( Plant Production))--University of Pretoria, 2007.