APPENDIX: EASTERN CAPE ANDSOUTHERN
KZN ANNUAL REPORT
CA FarmerInnovation Programme for
Period: October 2016- September 2017
Farmer Centred Innovation in Conservation Agriculture in upper
catchment areas of the Drakensberg in the Eastern Cape and
Southern KZN regions of KwaZulu-Natal
Erna Kruger and Hendrik Smith
Project implemented by:
Mahlathini Development Foundation
Promoting collaborative, pro-poor agricultural innovation.
Contact:Erna Kruger (Founder and Coordinator)
Address: 72 Tatham Road, Prestbury, Pietermaritzburg, 3201, KZN
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Time of operation: 2003-2016
Legal status: NPC
BEE status: 4. – Certificate available.
In collaboration with:
Description and selection of study areas..............................................................................4
Key activities: October 2016-September 2017.........................................................................5
Results achieved to date.........................................................................................................7
Overall trial design process..................................................................................................10
Possible agrochemical spraying regime options..............................................................11
Soil Fertility and Soil health..................................................................................................11
Soil health test results .....................................................................................................13
Nokweja two planter demonstration....................................................................................19
Yield results for the 2016-2017 season...............................................................................21
Progress per area of implementation....................................................................................22
Savings Group progress ..............................................................................................23
Case study: Mr Cosmos Xaba ......................................................................................23
Nkau and Mqhobi .........................................................................................................36
Khutsong – Mr Tsoloane Mapheele..............................................................................41
Summary of issues and learnings from individual visits and monitoring...........................41
Problems encountered, milestones not achieved and reasons for that ............................42
Description and selection of study areas
Matatiele has remained an area of focus for the programme, albeit with a smaller group of
participants and working in fewer localities (Nkau, Mqhobi, Sehutlong and Khutsong) primarily
managed by the local facilitator, Bulelwa Dzingwa.
Expansion into Southern KZN has been successful and the 4 learning groups established between
Creighton and Ixopo are showing great promise for continuation. The good relationships with
stakeholders in the Ubuhlebezwe and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma Local Municipalities and with
KwaNalu (The KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union) have been extremely helpful in this regard.
Below is a Google Earth map to show the rough location of the Southern KZN sites. The number
of participants in each areas is included in brackets.
In this season (2016-2017) we have continued to focus on the following elementsof the model,
a) Support farmers who are in their 2nd and 3rd season,
b) Conscious inclusion of crop rotation to compare with intercropping trials
c) Inclusion of summer cover crops in the crop rotation trials
d) Continuation with experimentation with winter cover crops, but planted in separate
plots rather than in-between maize
e) Mulching as a form of ground cover
f) Initiation of nodes for farmer centres that can offer tools, input packs and advice
g) Continued support for the local maize milling operation for maize meal and cattle feed
Key activities: October 2016-September 2017
For the 1styear of the 2ndphase of this CA SFIP we have given attention to broadening the
organisational scope and areasof operation of the programme. Expansion into smallholder maize
production areas in Southern KZN has been a key focus.
Implementation has continued in three areas (Matatiele, Creighton and Ixopo - Highflats) in 8
The budget set aside for this process is set out in the small table below. At present finances are
on track to complete the project within budget by the end of September 2017.
EC and SKZN
Documentation and M&E
Meeting and monthly reports
R 88 000,00
List of participants, interviews
and contracts, awareness and
training, experimentation and
R 470 900,00
platform building and events
Sub - TOTAL: Oct2016-Sept2017
R 605 200,00
The table below outlinesprogress in project activities and indicates percentage completion at
the ned of the season .
TABLE1:SUMMARYOF PROGRESS (OCTOBER 2016-SEPTEMBER2017)RELATEDTO OBJECTIVES
AND KEY ACTIVITIES
Summary of progress
% completion and comment
- Finalisation of CA
manual (Eng and Zulu)
- Soil health symposium–
participation (Nov 2016)
- Finalised PID report
and progress reports for
CA SFIP- on MDF website
- Sharing of information
- Articles and
- 100 copies of E and Z manuals
printed. A further print run
expected. (100% complete)
- 100 copies of group and
individual savings books
printed and in use. A further
print run of 200 copies done in
January 2017 (100% complete)
- DRDLR discussions, meetings,
LM forums for Ubuhlebezwe
and Dr Nkosazana Dalmini-
Zuma LM’s.Madzikane farmers’
forum, farmers days in
Nokweja and Matatiele (100%
- Summary of project process
handout and farmer centre
power point for awareness
raising events and meetings
Interim and Final
- 6 monthly interim
- Interim and final reports
finalised. (100% completion)
Summary of progress
% completion and comment
of CA systems
use their own practice
as a control – size
100m² exp, 100m²
- 8 villages, 54 farmers
- Basic CA design-
intercropping with maize
beans and cowpeas on a
100m2- 400m2 plot, with a
control plot managed entirely
by the participant. (100%
Adaptation trials included late
season planting of beans with a
mixture of winter and summer
cover crops. Monitoring and
yield data taken
size: size 100m² exp,
- 1 village,13 farmers
- Adaptation trials included late
season planting of beans with a
mixture of winter and summer
cover crops. Most participants
opted to continue with
intercropping practice from
their 1st year. Monitoring and
yield data taken. (100%
plots, own ideas (2
villages, 7 farmers in
-2 villages, 3 farmers
- Larger level plantings using
oxen drawn planters and
including cover crops of own
choice such as Lucerne.
Intercropping still practised.
Awa crop rotation and summer
and winter cover crops.
Monitoring and yield data
taken. (100% completion)
Develop and manage
PM&E framework; –
weekly and monthly
-M&E forms redesigned
- Digital monitoring
- Monitoring completed, yield
data taken. (100% completion)
-Co- facilitation of
information sharing and
action planning with
stakeholders and role
- 2-3 local level farmers days –
Madzikane farmers symposium
held in Feb 2017. Farmers open
day held in Nkau in March
2017, various stakeholder
meetings inclusive of farmers
at municipal level (Nokweja,
Madzikane) (100% completion)
CA working group,
and reference group
-Attended and presented
in Feb 2017. Next
working group end of
Sharing of information
using a range of
- Presentation at
LandCare conference end
- Presentations done in forums
run by the DAFF, DRDLR and
Harry Gwala DM, awa
Ubuhlebezwe and Dr Nkosazan
Dlamini-Zuma LMs. (100%
Results achieved to date
Learning groups have been set up in each village and have had regular meetings.
Training/learning workshops have been conducted for the following topics:
How to implement CA; introduction to the principles, soil fertility issues, crop
diversification and different planting options for CA
Working with herbicides and knapsack sprayers; information on different herbicides
their uses and safety measures as well as operation of knapsack sprayers, protective
Trial plot layout and planting using different CA planting equipment such as hoes, MBLI
planters, and animal drawn not till planters.
Top dressing and pest control measures for mid-season growth of crops and planting of
cover crop mixtures where people have been interested in this option
The learning groups provide the innovation platforms also for discussion of the value chain
issues, such as bulk buying, harvesting, storage and milling options and marketing.
Local level farmers’days were held in March to involve the larger community and provide a
platform for sharing and planning in Matatiele (Nkau).
A farmers’symposium, co-hosted by KwaNalu (Mr Roy Dandala) was held in Madzikane
(Creighton) that includedall stakeholders active in the area presentingtheir approaches and
processes. Participants trials for this programme as well as demonstration trials set up by
PANNAR (Reggie Mchunu) on bean varieties and a CA spacing and maize variety trial set up by
the CEDARA Farming Systems Unit were also visited by the participants. A Local CA Forum was
set up as a result. Quarterly sharing and coordination meetings will be held.
Local facilitators have been chosen by their groupsfor 5 villages (Nkau, Nokweja, Madzikane,
Ofafa, and KwaThathani). These facilitators have assisted with trial planting and monitoring in
their areas and were instrumental in arranging cross visits and farmers’ days.
Stakeholder engagement and awareness raising have included the following:
1.Participation in the Ubuhlebezwe LM LED forum and agricultural committee for inclusion
of CA and farmer centres onto the economic development agenda in the Harry Gwala DM.
A number of meetings were attended andfour presentations have been given at these
2.Attendance, by 4 staff members of the Soil health symposium in Pretoria in November
3.Presentation of the Grain SA CA SFIP progress and learnings (By Mazwi Dlamini) at the
LandCare conference in Kimberley at the end of 2016
4.Participation in the CA working group set up through the Grain SA CA facilitator and
provision of thematic input on soil health work in the project (Sylvester Selala).
5.A number of meetings were held with the DRDLR to discuss collaboration in setting up
and running farmer centres- which are central in two of their present programmes- Apri-
parks and RASED.
6.Meetings were held with the DEAT to discuss the CA programme in the context of a
Climate smart agriculture flagship programme and also in the context of a PES system
7.Discussions have been held with various suppliers – inputs, tools and storage facilities –
to negotiate arrangements suitable for the smallholder farmers.
The table below outlines activities related to objectives and key indicators for the period of
October 2016-February 2017)
A performance dashboard is indicated below. This provides a snapshot of performance according
to suggested numbers and outputs in the proposal.
Proposed (March 2016)
Number of areas of operation
Number of villages active
No of 1st level farmer experiments
No of 2nd level farmer experiments
No of 3rd level experiments
No of local facilitators
No of direct beneficiaries
Participatory monitoring and
evaluation process (farmer level)
CA manual (English and Zulu)
CA manual English – yes
CA manual Zulu-yes
The number of active participants inthe process decrease over the season asa number of
participants did not plant. Overall around 79% of signed up participants planted. Of these 76%
(41 participants) are new entrants into the programme, including 9 new participants in Matatiele,
which is the only existing area in the programme. The team is very satisfied with the 1stseason’s
activities in the areas where we continued. Two villages dropped off along the way- kwaThathani
and Umzimkhulu. A number of new villages and groups (5 in total) have however been signed up
for the next season, as extensions for the areas where we are now involved.
Initiation of learning groups in Southern KZN has been going very welland CA has been
introduced in 4 villages with a total of 43trial participantsas opposed to the suggested 28. In
the Matatiele area, the local facilitator Bulelwa Dzingwa expanded into a new village Mqhobi and
also had 8 participants in her home village Nkau. So in total there were21 participants in
Matatiele. Activities there have been going well with her support. The other Eastern Cape villages
such as Mt Ayliff, Mt Frere and Mzongwana have not been included again due to waning interest
in those areas.
The table below summarises the planned and actual farmer trial implementation for the 2016-
2017 planting season. A total of 66trial participants volunteered through the planning processes
across 11 villages in four areas. Fifty four (54) of these farmers planted trials. Theseason was
quite dry to start with and a number of participants had patchy germination as a result. Quite a
few participants realised zero harvests (22), which is a total of around 41% and is surprisingly
TABLE3:SUMMARY OF FARMER INNOVATION NUMBER AND AREAS PLANTED PERVILLAGE IN THISCA
Summer cover crops,
crop rotation, OPVs,
winter cover crops,
Bulelwa Dzingwa –
local facilitator for
Nkau, Mghobi and
Sehutlong. She is in the
beginning stages of
setting up a farmer
centre for this area and
manages the shared
equipment for the
Summer cover crops,
crop rotation, OPVs,
winter cover crops,
Intercropping – new
village and group
Summer cover crops,
crop rotation, OPVs,
winter cover crops,
planters used here in
and cowpeas), late
season beans and
GM control plots, trials
for PANNAR. Local
facilitator: Mr CD Xaba
summer and winter
Local facilitator; Mr
Ndlovu. Area is hilly
and steep with variable
to bad soils
summer and winter
Local Facilitator; Mr B
homestead based fields.
Area is hilly nad steep
with variable soils
summer and winter
Local facilitator The
beginnings of a farmer
centre. Here there are
larger fields- need for a
tractor drawn planter.
summer and winter
Local facilitator, Mr
Mkhize. They are also
working in larger fields
with DARD and grains
summer and winter
Total area planted~
Overall trial design process
As this is an existing ‘technology’ the farmer level experimentation is in essence an adaptation
Experimental design is pre-defined by the researchteam (based on previous implementation in
the area in an action research process with smallholders). It includes a number of different
Intercropping of maize, beans and cowpeas
Introduction of OPV and hybrid varieties for comparison (1 variety of maize and beans
Close spacing (based on Argentinean model)
Mixture of basin and row planting models
Use of no-till planters (hand held and animal drawn)
Use of micro-dosing of fertilizers based on a generic recommendation from local soil
Herbicides sprayed before or at planting
Decis Forte used at planting and top-dressing stage for cutworm and stalk borer
Planting of cover crops; winter cover crop mix -relay cropped in Autumn
Experimental designincludes 2 treatments; planter type (2) and intercrop (2). See the diagram
Figure 1: Example of plot layouts for the 1stlevel farmer trails.
The basic process for planting thus includes: Close spacing of tramlines (2 rows) of maize
(50cmx50cm) and legumes (20cmx10cm) intercropped, use of a variety of OPV and hybrid seed,
weed control through a combination of pre plantingspraying with herbicide and manual weeding
during the planting season and pest control using Decis Forte, sprayed once at planting and once
at top dressing stage.
PLOT 1: Hand HoePLOT 2: Planter
Maize 1,bean 1Maize 2,Bean 1Maize 1,bean 1Maize 2, Bean 1
Maize 1,Bean 2Maize 2,Bean 2Maize 1,Bean 2Maize 2,Bean 2
PLOT 3: OR repeat plot 1 and 2PLOT 4:
Hand hoePlanterHand hoePlanter
Maize 1,cowpeaMaize 1,cowpea
Maize 2,CowpeaMaize 2,Cowpea
10m or 5m
10m or 5m
Based on evaluation of experiment progress for year 1, includes the addition of options that
farmers choose from. Farmers also take on spraying and plot layout themselves:
A number of different OPV and hybrid varieties for maize
A number of different options for legumes (including summer cover crops)
Planting method of choice
Comparison of single crop and inter cropping planting methods
Use of specific soil sample results for fertilizer recommendations
Trials are based on evaluation of experimentation process to date; to include issues of cost benefit
analysis, bulk buying for input supply, joint actions around storage, processing and marketing.
Farmers design their experiments for themselves to include some of the following potential focus
Early planting; with options to deal with more weedsand increased stalk borer pressure.
Herbicide mix to be used pre and at planting (Round up, Dual Gold, Gramoxone)
A pest control programme to include dealing with CMR beetles
Intercropping vs crop rotation options
Spacing in single block plantings
Use of composted manure for mulching and soil improvement in combination with
Soil sample results and specific fertilizer recommendations
Planting of dolichos and other climbing beans
Summer and winter cover crops; crop mixes, planting dates, management systems,
planting methods (furrows vs scatter)
Seed varieties; conscious decisions around POVs, hybrids and GM seeds
Cost benefit analysis of chosen options
Possible agrochemical spraying regime options
1. Roundup 2 weeks before planting- if there has been some rain and weeds. Dual Gold at planting
(or just after planting with Decis Forte/Kemprin).
2. Gramoxone at planting (just before or after planting) withor without Dual Gold and Decis
Forte/Kemprin–Dual Gold does not work on dry soil (Followed by heavy rain)
Soil Fertility and Soil health
Soil samples were taken for the new areas in SKZN where the trials have been initiated.
Below are summaries ofsome of the results
SPRINGVALLEY: Here the general soil fertility status is remarkably good for smallholder
fields. pH averages around 5,5. Acid saturation isextremely low at 0,5%, with no K or Lime
required. P requirements are reasonably low at 48kg/ha. Soil organic and percentage N in
the soil are both reasonable.
FIGURE 1:SOME SOIL FERTILITY PARAMETERS AVERAGED FOR 12PARTICIPANTS FROM
OFAFA: This area is geographically close to Springvalley. The soil fertility results were
similar in that the average pH was quite reasonable at 5,4 with a very low percentage acid
saturation at 0,6%. The average percentage organic matter andnitrogen in their soil was
3,7% and 0,38% respectively which are quite high.
MADZIKANE: For this area for an average of the 10 participants for whom samples were
taken, the pH is somewhat lower at 4,3 and percentage acid saturation was 14,9%. The
average percentage organic matter and nitrogen in the soil were quite high at 3,1% and
FIGURE 2:SOME SOIL FERTILITYPARAMETERS AVERAGED FOR10PARTICIPANTS FROM
of Acid sat
of Org. C
of N %Average
of Clay %
(blank) 5,560,46 48,08 2,750,19 51,31
Org. C %Average of
N %Average of
(blank) 4,3314,90 42,000,853,100,2348,10
NOKWEJA: In this area, for an average of 10 participants the pH was 4, and percentage
acid saturation 25% - which is quite high. Average percentage organic matter and nitrogen
in the soil were high at 4,43% and 0,31% respectively.
Below is a tabular summary of the results combined with the average fertilizer
recommendation for each of the areas. KwaThathani and Umzimkhulu have not been
included, given the dwindling of the groups later in the season and the likelihood of
discontinuation of these groups.
TABLE4:SUMMARIES FOR SOIL FERTILITY PARAMETERS AND FERTILIZERREQUIREMENTS
FOR THE 4ACTIVE VILLAGES IN SKZNANDMATATIELE
lime – not
The generic fertilizer recommendation provided to participants at the start of the trials is 5
50kg bags of MAP, 3 bags of LAN and 1t/ha of lime.
From the above summary table it is clear that the generic recommendationcan in fact be
reduced to 3 bags of MAP and 2 bags LAN. Attention will need to be given to those
participants needing lime and an increased lime requirement specifically in Nokweja and
Madzikane will be important,
Soil health test results
Soil health tests were done for 4 participants from Matatiele for a second season and a few
more participants have now been included.
For the analysis over two years the following summary figure provides indicative results
FIGURE 3:SOIL HEALTH TEST PARAMETERS FOR 4PARTICIPANTS FROMMATATIELE, OVER 2
Averages were taken for control andtrial plots for the four participants across the two
seasons 2014-2015 and 2015-2016. As the second season was substantially drier than the
first the values were generally lower, however on average the following trends are clearly
All the Solivata test results (microbial respiration); indicative of microbial activity are
higher for the CAtrial plots than the conventional control plots over the two seasons
All soil health scores for the CA trial plots are higher than for the control plots
Organic carbon in the soil is also higher for 3 of the 4 participants
Organic Nitrogen is higher for two of the four participants.
An the C:N ratio is lower for two of the participants, indicating the availability of more
nutrients for immediate uptake by crops in these soils. The two participants with
potentially ‘healthier’ soils Mamelokeng Lebeoua and Bulelwa Dzingwa however saw
in increase in the C:N ration in their CA trial plots- pointing towards apotential build
up of soil nutrients in these soils, which in the case of Matatiele with very sandy
depleted soils is a very positive result.
In Matatiele soil health test results were compared for 5 participants. 3 of the 5
participants have been doing mulching trials for 2 consecutive seasons and we were
interested to see whether this hasan effect on the soil health. One new participant was
added where we compared her control and trial plots and then Mr Mapheele’s plot was
intercrop Control CA
with ccControl CA
with ccControl CA
CO2 - C, ppm C61,4 96,9 64,4 84,1 25,8 27,2 27,2 77,7
Organic C ppm C226,0 258,5 157,5 136,599,5102,5 144,0 180,0
Organic N ppm N14,6 17,4 10,39,87,48,011,8 10,9
C:N ratio15,5 17,5 15,2 14,2 13,5 12,7 12,3 16,4
Soil health Calculation8,615,18,7 9,8 4,9 5,2 4,610,8
Matatele; Soil health test results over 2 seasons; 2014-
The figure below shows the outcomes for a number of soil healthparameters for these
FIGURE 4:SOIL HEALTH TEST RESULTS FOR DIFFERENT TRIALS CONDUCTED IN
The following points can be made:
Soil health scores in this area are mostly verylow. These are sandy, low fertility
All trial plots show higher soil health scores than the control plots
Soil health scores for the veld samples are lower than the trials for all
participants, but Mr Mapheele. The latter has extremely depleted soils in his
The percentage organic matter in the soils for the trials are higher than the veld
samples. This gives a further indication of the low base fertility of these sandy
The control plots have lower soil health scores than thetrial plots for most of the
participants, indicatingthat soil health has increased in the CA plots.
The control plots for Bulelwa Dzingwa and Matshepo Futu show higher soil
health scores than some of their trial plots, given that they use CA in their control
plots as well.
ol Trial Contr
ol Trial Veld
Bulelwa DzingwaMamolekeng LebeouaMapontsho ranqabangMatsepo FutoMatshepo FutuTsoloane Mapheele
Average of CO2 - C, ppm C41,5 12,8 57,2 22,1 36,4 36,4 38,1 52,3 31,6 41,5 34,7 17,5 20,2 26,4 16,8 14,6 19,2
Average of Organic C ppm C208 168 227 202 272 306 304 184 179 230 156 133 179 154 118 116 145
Average of Organic N ppm N12,6 11,3 13,4 13,7 17,1 19,9 25,67,713,6 16,3 10,56,710,28,97,58,512,4
Average of C:N ratio16,5 14,9 16,9 14,7 15,9 15,4 11,9 23,9 13,2 14,1 14,9 19,9 17,5 17,3 15,7 13,6 11,7
Average of Soil health Score5,9 3,7 7,0 4,9 6,7 7,4 8,8 4,8 5,6 6,9 4,9 2,9 4,0 4,0 3,0 3,1 4,3
Average of Aggregate stability21,0 33,0 33,0 44,0 58,0 33,0 58,0 27,0 58,0 14,0 45,0 19,0 19,0 58,0 14,07,014,0
Average of %LOI3,4 2,9 3,1 2,0 2,9 2,7 2,8 2,3 2,2 4,8 2,2 2,1 2,4 2,0 0,6 0,7 1,0
Soil health test results for trial in Matatiele; 2016-2017 season
Generally the CA trial plots without mulch have higher soil health scores than the
plots with mulch. The exception hereis Mamolekeng Lebeoua. Her soils are well
looked after with a much better soil health score than the other participants. Here
the specific effect of mulching is positive for increase soil health. This indicates
that the mulching can help toincrease the impact of the CA onsoil health, but
only in soils that are already somewhat stabilised.
The aggregate stability is generally higher in the cultivated plots than in the veld.
Additionally, aggregate stability of the CA plots are generally higher than the
control plots. The two exceptions here are Mr Mapheele where continuous low
input cultivation has seriously damaged his soil and thenew participant
Mapontsho Ranqabang. This could also partiallybe the effect of quite ‘invasive’
weeding practices using hand hoes that continually disturb large portions of the
upper layers of the soil. See pictures below
Generally the Solvita tests, indicating microbial activity in the soils are higher in
the trial plots than the control plots. Fortwo of the three participants who did
mulching trials, the Solvita tests for the non mulched pots are higher than their
mulched plots. Mamolekeng Lebeoua, with her already more fertile soils shows
an upswing in microbial activity in her mulched CA plots.
Generally thus theCA improves the soil health, but mulching only has an immediate positive
effect on soil health for those soils which already have a reasonable soil health score.
Above left: Mr Mapheele’s trail plot with maize on the left handside and beans in the centre.
Growth of crops in thetrial plots are visually better than for the control plot which is indicated
above right. For both plots soil capping and lack of soil structure is evident. There is
increased organic matter and organic Nitrogen in the trial plot.
Right: Mrs Mapontsho Ranqabang
weeding her plot. Due to low
germination and high weed pressure,
the weeding is ‘invasive”and disturbs
soil to a large extent.
Below: Mrs Mamolelekeng Lebeoua
has a beautiful trial plot. In the
foreground are her beans, and behind
that the maize and bean intercrops. On the fight isthe mulched portion of her trial. For her,
mulching of her CA plots has had a marked beneficial effect on soil health, increasing
organic matter, microbial activity and aggregate stability.
When one then examines the availability of Nitrogen in the soil further clarification of the soil
health test results is possible. The total releasable N over time can be analysed for the
samples using the Solvita labile ammonium nitrogen analysis (SLAN) test. This gives
indications of longer term, short term and immediate nitrogen fractions in terms of release. It
is further possible to put a monetary value on the organic N that has been contributed to the
soil ,which now would not be required to be augmented as inorganic Nin fertilizers. The
results are shown in the figure below
FIGURE 5:ANALYSIS OFN AVAILABILITY FOR THE MATATIELE PARTICIPANTS’SOIL HEALTH
From the figure above the following comments can be made:
Available N is highest for Mrs Mamolelekeng Lebeoua. This has been most dramatic
for her mulched trial plots where N (long, medium and short term) ismuch higher
than for her trial and control plots. Short and immediate term releasable N are
significantly higher than the veld sample. She is a very good example of what it is
possible to achieve in these soils with good soil management practices over a period
For the two participants where the soil health scores were lower of their trials with
mulch, than with no mulch (Bulelwa and Matshepo), it is evident from this test that
the short term and immediate release N is lower in the mulched plots than the non
mulched plots. The long term release N is higher in the mulched plots. This indicates
a short term use of available N by the mulch – an effect which is well known and
obviously much more evident in low fertility soils.
Mr Mapheele, is losing short and immediate term release N in his cultivated plots,
both the control and the trial when compared to the veld sample. This indicates that
he has in fact not managed to build up fertility in his soil, but is in fact still losing
ground. The trial results are however better than the control plots, showing that this
approach is helping, albeit slowly, the soils to recover.
Mrs Matshepo Futu is in a similar position. Her results indicatethat the intercropping
trials have the best chance of helping her build up hersoils and that presently crop
rotation is having a definite adverse effect on soil health.
ol Trial Contr
ol Trial Veld
Bulelwa DzingwaMamolekeng LebeouaMapontsho ranqabangMatsepo FutoMatshepo FutuTsoloane Mapheele
Average of SLAN Total releasable N (kg/ha)347 426 347 280 370 370 392 280 308 269 280 224 330 280 162 215 151
Average of Long term term release N319 400 317 249 331 325 335 263 278 232 256 209 308 260 146 196 123
Average of Short term release N18 21 16 23 27 31 30 12 17 19 12 13 19 14 12 13 17
Average of Immediate release N10 414 811 13 28514 17 122 4 6 5 610
Average of R saving (org N175 76 236 129 190 226 46884 232 289 20234 72 95 84103 175
Total releasable N over time for the Matatiele participants;2016-
Overall these results indicate that intercropping on the CA trial plots (with close spacing) is
the best option for slowly increasing soil health status in thesesoils in Matatiele. It also
indicates that mulching is onlylikely to have a positive effect in the short term once the soil
health status has already been somewhat improved.
Nokweja two planter demonstration
Tractor drawn two rowplanters have been procured to assist with the expansion of the
programme and to be able to work with smallholder farmers active on larger plots of land;
1ha and up.
The ability to support
mechanised planting in
this programme, adds
a new element to the
took place on the 25th
of May at Nokweja, the
implement is currently
kept at Mr Mandla
Mkhize’s home. Mr Mkhize is a member of the Grain SA SF Program. The Nokweja learning
group has been exposed to tractor drawn implements through the local Department of
Agriculture. They are ploughing and planting hectares of maize and beans for both eating
and selling. They mainly growyellow maize for selling and grow a bit of white maize that
they eat green. They also work with Eric Wiggle from Grain SA whom helps them source
seed and fertilizer through the smallholder subsidy program running the area. Mahlathini’s
approach to maize and bean production is a bit different; the model is based on a farmer
level and managed intercrop trials where learning group members learn and work together
mostly using handheld implements, to date. Participants in this group were overwhelmed by
the amount of work involved in planting one plot; this was evident in the demonstration
planting session held atSbongiseni Mtshali’s plot. Individuals were peeling off one byone
and the planting was never finished, but they did manage to ploughand have controls
planted afterwards. Of the few people who planted, they did so independently of the group
making use of available home labour.
Mahlathini was able to source a two row smallholder no till planter, suited to meeting the
needs and preferences of the Nokweja smallholders. Following a demonstration in Bergville
form the suppliers; Edenequip; field staff organized a day to showcase the implement in
Nokweja in the Ixopo area. Thelocal department was invited as well as general public, the
learning group was well represented,the Grain SA study group was also represented. Mr
Mkhize was able to source a tractor through Mr Mdletshe; Umzikhulu agricultural official;
who also availed himself for the day.
The demonstration was held on one of Mr Mkhize’s plost where he had planted beans the
previous season. Copies of the planter manual were printed out and were used to inform
sections to be covered during the demonstration. The group started off looking at the
implement, noting similarities and differences to normal no till planters. The group was
shown how to offload the planter and the experiences of learning group members came in
handy when the planter was attached to the tractor. The group showed each other how the
seed and fertilizer bins worked noting that fertilizer
went beneath the seed.There are gears fitted on the
planter that control the speed at which seed is
deposited; these were important to take not of.
Fertilizer from the bin is controlled using spacers
placed underneath the bin to open up or close down
spaces to the bins. Farmers would put the spacers,
turn the wheel and catch fertilizer and measure that to
determine if he right amount was being deposited.
Figure : Seed and fertilizer compartments
After that, a general safety and maintenance session
followed using the manual as the guideline. The
session covered safety when using the planter where a
lot of mistakes tend to happen. The driving speed was emphasized as pulling the planter at a
speed more than5km/hr could damage the planter. Driving faster than this could cause the
planter to bump up and down where seed and fertilizer placement can be compromised.
Whilst the tractor was pulling the planter up and down the field, farmers went behind the
digging up seed and fertilizer. They were satisfied with the amountand depth at which they
were placed. We did have the clay soil blocking the seed and fertilizer openings. A quick
sausage test of the soil was done to determine the clay content; the soil was exceptionally
Figure : Left, picture of the sausage test. Middle,
group looking in the fertilizer
and seed bins. Rights, clay soils blocking the fertilizer opening
The group was delighted that they could still do no till using tractors more especially in big
fields. It is still possible to do the intercrop using this planter where one compartment would
be maize and the other beans. The group has to be well organized as this planter will be
shared with other areas.
Yield results for the 2016-2017 season
The growth and yields for CA trial plots, although more promising than in previous years,
was still somewhat disappointing, with around 41% of participants not having any harvests.
Yields for beans were reasonable for those who managed to harvest. Only around 3
participants managed to harvest any cowpeas.
TABLE 5:YIELDS FORCATRIAL ANDCONTROL PLOTS FOR THEECAND SKZN
Name and surname
Maize ( C)
AVERAGE YIELD (t/ha)
*Note: Empty cells in the table indicate yield data that is unavailable. And the zeros indicate no harvests.
From the yield data above it can beseen that the CA trial maize generally yielded a lot better
than the control treatments. Bean yields in the CA intercropped plots were surprisingly high
this season. Conversely cowpea yields were at an all-time low.
These yields were compared to previous seasons for the 4 participants who have been
involved in the programme now for 4 seasons. The figure below summarises this result.
FIGURE 6:YIELD AVERAGES FOR MATATIELE PARTICIPANTSOVER FOUR SEASONS.
From this figure it can be seen that yields have steadily increased for all four participants for
both maize and beans in the CA plots.
Progress per area of implementation
The Madzikane learning group has done well this season and has been very active. They
have initiated a savings group,where members activelysave for production inputs. A
stakeholder forum has been set up for Madzikane, including representatives from KwaNalu,
GrainSA, DARD, the Farming Systems Research Unit at Cedara and PANNAR, as well as
the LM (now renamed as the Dr Nkosazna Dlamini Zuma LM). Farmers from the Nokweja
Cooperative have joined in these meetings.
The learning group members have access to a small local mill through Mr Xaba the
coordinator for thecooperative and also the grains local facilitator. He also managed to
borrow a maize sheller from the ARC, based at Cedara. We are in the process of assisting
the group to acquire a maize sheller of their own.
Bulelwa Dzingwa1,61,821,01 3,24,1
Mamolelekeng Lebuoea0,351,552 1,2 5 7,2
Matshepo Futhu0,21 0,7610,5302,87
Tsoloane Mapheele0,16000,13 0,7801,4
Grand Total0,160,541,0275 1,28250,882,053,8925
Yield averages for CA trials in Matatiele:2013-2016
Savings Group progress
Masibambane savings group based in Creighton started saving in March 2017 and has a
total of 15 members. The group meets monthly for savings and
the share value is R200.00. The group met for their first
savings meeting without MDF in June and reported that the
meeting went smoothly. More than 50% of the group members
borrow money for agricultural production. The rest of the
group, borrows money for household consumption.
FIGURE 7:MADZIKANE,MASIBAMBANE SAVINGS GROUP DURING THEIRMONTHLY SAVINGS
The small table below summarises the savings information for the Masibambane VSLA in
Madzikane between March-June 2017
Case study: Mr Cosmos Xaba
FIGURE 7:MR XABA STANDING BY HISMAIZE AND BEAN INTERCROP TRIAL
Mr Cosmas Dumezweni Xaba (50) is a family man; with a wife and 7 children and a
grandchild, He retired from the mines 2008 to come and work his fields growing crops and
rearing livestock. He strongly believes in doing things for himself for the wellbeing of his
family. He is a preacher at a local church that he built with his own moneyfrom the mines.
He is also quite influential in community development programs and takes particular interest
in agricultural, specifically crop production interventions.
MrXaba keeps 10 cattle, 53 sheep and uses 3ha for crop production; spinach, potatoes,
beans as well as maize.
He mills and sells the maize locally. He sells a 50kg maize bag for R150, or when sold in
bulk from ten bags the bag is reduced to R120. In the 2015/2016 he made a turnover of
R8050 from his potatoes. Here he works with Lima RDF staff (another NGO active in the
area) that sourceseed for him. Through the Lima Jobs Fund programme he was loaned R39
000 for broilers. Currentlyhe is left with R2000 to pay off. Lima also assisted him with
financing inputs for his maize production through an R8800 loan for fertilizers and herbicide
that has also been paid off. He pioneered the initiation of the VSLA through the GrainSA CA
programme. He recently took a loan from the group to source a maize sheller.
There is great need for a sheller given the amount maize he produces from his fields. In the
meantime he has beenborrowing asheller from the Agricultural Research Council at Cedara
but he opted to buy his own to take advantage of the local need for shelling maize.
Left, electric maize sheller lent from the ARC, rondavel full of maize in the background.
Right, maize harvested waiting to be shelled in addition to already shelled maize in the
rondavel and bags onthe left.
Maize storage is also an issue for Mr Xaba. Keeping the maize in bags in a rondavel means
that the qualityof the maize reduces over time due to mould. There is also not enough
space, given his increasing production. If he were able to store his maize efficiently, he could
sell it when there is a greater demand.
The scale of his production has grown to a point where he provides temporary work as he
hires extra labour to assist his family members.
Mr Xaba is working with a number of agricultural stakeholders in the area. He is currently
the chairperson of a farmer association through the KwaZulu Natal Agricultural Union
(KWANALU) and a local facilitator for Mahlathini’s newly established smallholder farmer
innovation program in the area through collaboration with KWANALU. His work with
KWANALU saw them awarded a Knapic planter through Landcare. Mr Xaba is also the local
chair-person of the newly established stakeholderforum.
He has been exposed to practices such as minimum tillage, advanced seeds through
collaborative work with PANNAR, a range of herbicides and pesticides. He has tried
conservation agriculture (CA) for a couple of years and has witnessed increased land
production potential and efficient use of inputs where he saves both labour and monies
spent. He was not however familiar with the concepts of intercropping and permanent soil
cover. He was eager to try these out with both hand hoes and hand held implements offered
through the farmer experimentation programme and compared this to his normal mono
Mr Xaba’s 400m² plot was the very first planted in the area; on 22nd November 2016 using
Sahara maize, Gadra beans and mixed brown cowpea seed varieties. The group worked
together in planting this plot as a learning exercise and demonstration for planting the other
members’ trials. They worked together throughout. Germination was patchy but subsequent
growth was good, giving the desiredeffect of early canopy cover by the beans and a
consequent reduction in the need for weeding. Mr Xaba obtained 15.86kg beans (equivalent
to ~1,9tons/ha)from the intercrop trial plot and 98.489kg maize(equivalent to ~4,1t/ha) from
Left: the learning group members preparing the plot together and Right: The 400m2
intercrop plot with maize and cowpea intercrop. Patchy germination of maize is evident as is
the good subsequent growth of cowpeas and reasonable canopy cover
A mix of summer and winter cover crops were relay planted into the fields when beans were
harvested. Neither germination nor growth of the cover crops was good- in our estimations
due to moisture competition with maize still actively growing. The learning group however
found this idea interesting and decided thatthey would also try this in the coming season,
trying to get the crucial factor of planting date right into the future
Right and far right: Patchy germination and growth of the late
season cover crop
mix relay cropped
into the maturing
On the 1st of February four further plots (13mx5m)were planted; one of late season beans
only, one of the summer and winter
cover crop mix only and two plots with a
mixture of beans and cover crops
(planted in 10m wide blocks). The cover
crops were planted using the haraka
Right: Mr Xaba with the haraka planter
planting cover crops and other learning
group members planting beans
The cover crops and late season beans grew well.
Right: A view of the
late season cover
predominate in this
Yield data for Mr
Xaba’s trial is
summarised in the
small table below.
Early beans (t/ha)
Late beans (t/ha)
For Mr Xaba, planting by hand is not an issue as he is used to planting and harvesting
manually, especially if this happens in a group. He appreciates the intercropping because of
crop diversity, efficient land use andreduced use of herbicides and weeding due to close
spacing. However, he felt that the two crops may compete for nutrients particularly in
patches where soil quality is less than optimal. Maize tends to suffer in this case much more
The table below outlines a selection ofthe monitoring information for the Madzikane learning group
TABLE6:SUMMARY OF TRIAL AND YIELD INFORMATION FOR THEMADZIKANE LEARNING GROUP
Residue WeedsMaize BeansCowpeasRunoffCover cropsMaize t/haBeans (t/ha)Cowpea
1Nombuyiselo Shozi54 16
15 545 9288No Yes8,13,5No harvest
2Cosmas Dumezweni Xaba50 11
20 232 4873No Yes
3Andrina DladlaNo No836
nm n/an/an/aNo harvest Noharvest No harvest
1sonis workingYesYes1350 400m²56
1012 34 4942No Yes
5 Zamekile Zungu72 35
400m²65 nut grass217 67 4960YesYesNo harvest No harvest No harvest
6ND MkhwaneNo No
7Mhlabunzima MbheleNo No800
8Claremesia Xaba40 1 son is workingYesYes1400
72 38 3150Yes Yes
9Euphrosina Bethulile MiyaNo No
400m²No harvest No harvest No harvest
10 Godfrid Kumakwakhe MiyaNo No1000
4 1No NoNo harvest No harvest No harvest
11 Msizakali SimonDlamini58
Retired No Yes 5000 400m²55
15 259 4056No NoTo be collected1,8
AVERAGE 56 4/11 5/115410 6465162 2/7 5/75,92,60,1
Exceptionally poor germination
At planting (24Nov- 2 Dec 2016)
%Soil Cover after
From the above table the following comments canbe made:
The average age of the 11 participants in Madzikane is around 56 years, of whom
around 72% are female
4 of 11 participants joined the Masibambane savings VSLA and 5 of 11 participants
save for inputs
Soil cover after planting was reasonable at about 10%
Germination was generally quite patchy with around 46% germination average for
maize, 52% for beans and 62% for cowpeas
Mazie yields, for those who obtained yields were high for the trials with an average of
5,9t/ha. Bean yields similarly, were good at an average of 2,6t/ha. Only one person
harvested cowpeas (0,1t/ha)
Through links supported by Mr Nqe Dlamini from StratActand the Ubuhlebezwe LM
agricultural forum, learning groups were initiated in four villages in the area; Ofafa,
Springvalley- close to the Umkomaas river, kwaNokweja and kwaThathani –closer to
Highflats and Umzimkhulu.
The intention of the LM is to draw community members into more productive and commercial
field cropproduction and to support the whole value chain in an attempt to increase theincome
potential for these smallholders. Agriculture isconsidered the main economic opportunity for
community members in the area. Agriparks are meant to be supported throughthe DM (Harry
Gwala) and it’s development agencies, along with DRDLR. A recent launch of the RASED
programme in the district is also to be spearheaded by the DRDLR. This programme aims to
support secondary cooperatives in the area to supply fresh produce, grains and meatdirectly
into a government supplychain.
Implementationfor this programme through thelearning groups and farmer experimentation
process has not taken hold in kwaThathani and Umzimkhulu, both due to a mismatch between
expectations raised by government initiatives in the area and the low eternal support offered
by this programme. Basicallyfarmers were after inputs and ploughing services for larger fields.
Implementation in Springvalley, Ofafa and Nokweja have been very promising.
The standard intercropping,close spaced trial plots of maize (Borderking) x beans (Gadra)
and maize x cowpea intercrops have been planted in theseareas.
BonginhlanhlaDlamini, the local facilitator for the area has this group well coordinated. He is
also a member of the Vukuzenzele primary cooperative under the DARD and has been the
coordinator there for 4 years. He has seen to it
that all planted cover crops. Due to participants
doing trials in their small homestead plots, it
was advised they plant the ccs’ in rows, as
chickens would feed on the broadcasted seed.
Four of the trials; Sibonelo Zondi, Diyo
Dlamini, Mfanyana Mkhize and Bhekinkosi
Sindane’s, were extremelyweedy and they
could not plant cover crops (See picture onthe
right). Of those who planted, the scc and wcc mix germinated and grew fairly well.
Clockwise from Top Left: Bonginhlanhla Dlamini's maize
and cowpea intercropped plots during monitoring at the end
of January 2017. Maize germination was a bit patchy, but
subsequent growth was satisfactory. The same plot at the
end of March, providing good late season cover and weed
control His; cover crops germinated and grew reasonably
well, but were a bit shaded out by the maize.
Above Left and Right; Letta Ngubo's intercropped plots at the end of January showing good germination and
growth and her sunn hemp showing poor germination.
The table below outlines a selection of the monitoring information for the Springvalley learning group
TABLE7:SUMMARY OF TRIAL AND YIELD INFORMATION FOR THESPRINGVALLEY LEARNING GROUP
Type of grants
Bonginhlanhla Dlamini42 6Unemployed1 child support
grass 1045 0-5 477473 No
Sibonelo Zondi36 2Unemployed1 pension800 566m² 60
2 50-55445931 No 0 0
Letta Ngubo69 2Unemployed1 child support
Black jack ,
10 105515971 Yes 0
Bakhulumile Dlamini6910 Unemployed1 child support800
00 5833533 Slightly 0
Mzikayifani Sosibo60 4Unemployed1 child support, 1 pension2500
055 25614764 No
Bhekinkosi Sindane73 3Unemployed1 child support800
72 9734550 No 0
Duduzile Dlamini6511 Unemployed
1 pension, 3 child support
8 cattle,6chicken, 14goats
765 703723 No
Diyo Dlamini70 4 Unemployed
1 child support,1 pension
beans, butternut, 13cattle
210 42 27,5 16 No 0 n/a
Mfanyana Mkhize75 3Unemployed2 child support
082 683253 No
AVERAGE 62 5975,94,021,4 28,759,9 48,546,03,7t/ha 0,9t/ha0t/ha
Trial description (Planted 5-12 Dec 2016)
Herbicide (Round Up and Dual Gold)
From the above table the following comments canbe made:
Of the 9 participants 7 are men and most (78%) are pensioners.
Percentage soil cover for the plots was very low and averaged 4%. Most of this cover
(around 3050 was growing weeds prior to herbicide application.
Germination for maize averaged 60%, for beans 49% and for cowpeas 46%.
Average trial yields were 3,7t/ha for maize, 0,9t/ha for beans and 0t/ha for cowpeas.
As for many of the 1st year trial participants around 67%did not have any yields (poor
growth and cattle invasions) and a few more did not remember to record their yields.
Only 2 participants planted control plots as requested and no yield data was obtained
Generally interest in this area was weak at the beginning of the season but increased
significantly as the season progressed. A positive start of the CA-SFIP process in
Springvalley has made itpossible for neighboring villages to ask questions with regards to
CA in the area. For most people sowing seed in undisturbed land is unheard of and people
were eager to seeif anything would be harvested from the weeds and “compacted”soil.
Bonginhlanhla Dlamini; our local facilitator; has been instrumental in sharing information
about CA, allowing people around his community to walk in his trial asking questions.
Frequent questionsasked were around inputs and tools used to implement such a system_
major worries were around dealing with weeds with ploughing omitted in the process.
Individuals then started asking about possibilities of the program being introduced in their
areas. The learning group in Springvalley has been expanded (23 participants) and
Plasistate and KoShange (neighbouring villages) have been brought on board for the 2017-
2018 planting season.
Springvalley yearly review session
Blow is a summary of some of the comments from the group:
-Most group members felt that although they planted late and germination was patchy
that subsequent growth of the CA plots was better than their control plots.
-Many farmer here use kraal manure in their fields, finding that buying fertilizers is
unaffordable for them.
-There were issues with stalk borer in maize damaging crops, as well as CMR beetle
in beans. Cowpeas did not pod at all due to CMR beetles.
-Participants appreciate the provision of the subsidy, explaining that as maize is for
household consumption, they cannot afford to pay the full input prices for maize
production. With the subsidies, they intend to increase the sizes of their trial plots.
Members felt that saving around R3000 for their maize production isaffordable- but
do recognise that this limits the amount of maize they are able to grow for
-Having a local farmer centre would assist with buying inputs also for their control
plots, as most participants can only afford small quantities, which are difficult to find
in the shops and proportionally much more expensive.
-Relay cropping of the winter cover crops was disappointing with little to no
termination and very little subsequent growth.
-Theywould be very interested in having a local mill in the area
The group consists of eight members: five women in their late 50’s and early 60’s and three
men -with one in his 60’s and two in their 50’s. Most of them are household heads looking
after grandchildren and holding temporary work.They currently grow maize and beansusing
tractors to plough, but plant and weed byhand. They have shallow soils with little to no
organic matter and do not often use fertilizers. The group worked well together. Overall
germination of crops was poor due to dry, hot conditions exacerbating issues with poor soils.
Only one of the initial 9 participants had some germination and growth.
Right: Mrs Velephi Hadebe was the only person
who saw some growth in her initial trial planting
– germination and growth here was patchy and
Undeterred, the group then requested
that we plant late season beans in
which cover crops were introduced by
MDF as a means of pumping life into
the soil. These germinated and grew
surprisingly well; Four blocks were
planted – on with beans only, another
two blocks consisting of cover crop and bean intercrops and one with cover crops alone.
Beans formed pods fairly quickly while sunn hemp, sunflower and oats grew big and tall. A
few rows of maize were also planted just to asses if time was a limiting factor in terms of
germination. Maize planted a bit later did germinate and grew better, although the colour
was still a bit off (yellow). Maize with cowpeas was a bit darker than that of beans.
Above left and right: Mrs Thandiwe Hadebe's plot -showing the late season bean planting on the left and the
beans and cover crop intercrop on the right.
Above Left and Right: Phatheleni Ndlovu's plot – the bean and cc intercrop growing exceptionally well and a
maize and cc intercrop also growing well – but maize is a bit yellow.
Left to Right: Patheleni Ndlovu
kept seed of sunflowers, sunn
hemp and saia oats and
managed to get a bit of a beans
harvest as well
Above Left and Right, Phathisile Ngcobo's CC and bean intercrop plot growing well and her sunflowers and sunn
hemp seedling slightly later in the season.
Above Left and Right:, Velephi Hadebe's late season beans growing very well and getting ready to seed. The
maize intercrop germinated and grew reasonably well. And her ban and cc intercrop plot.
Participants appreciatecover crops for livestock feed supplement potential for dry winters
and as soil cover as a weed reduction strategy. Weeds have beena stumbling block for
years which is why they have always opted to plough soils. They have realized that reducing
weed seed stock is the wayto slowly get rid of weeds in their plots. However, this will take a
few seasons and it requires they take weeds out before flowering.
In this area smallholders have become accustomed to the support from DARD in their fields
which includes inputs and ploughing services, a trend which has also been supported by the
grains farmer support programme active in the area. Participants thus underestimatedthe
amount of work required and 4 of the 9participants did not even plant. A few others
attempted to useherbicides mid- season, but managed only to kill off theirbeans. Cover
crops planted into the bare patches left by this injudicious herbicide use, did not germinate
well and were out competed by the maize.
Some time was spent onstakeholder engagement and building relationships with existing
programmes. We joined the DARD, through the extension officer Sindi NZimande at a
farmer development meeting and further presented at a GrainSA farmer Support Programme
mechanisation workshop, having been invited byMr Eric Wiggle. The intention is to set up a
forum for regular interactions/ stakeholder forumto take the process forward. It was agreed
that the organisations would work together in terms of information sharing, providing mutual
support in terms of our respective programs and in dealing with community dynamics. Eric
Wiggle offered tosharethe Grain SA training manual in order to familiarise the team with the
Grain SA program. Nokweja expansion into the neighbouring village of KwDladla has been
planned as well as into the villages Ngongonini and St Elois.
In addition, a demonstration workshop was held for the new mechanisedtwo row planter
being promoted through the CA SFIP.
Here the local facilitator, Bulelwa Dzingwa has taken on the task of setting up and working
with the learning groups in the area. She has established one learning group (8 participants)
in Nkau and another in a neighbouring village Mqhobi (8 Participants). She is an enthusiastic
experimenter and has again tried a number of different experiments.
Nkau and Mqhobi
She has been part of the trials since 2014. There has been some
improvement in her crop growth, but not as much as expected. She
has some acidity problems in her soil and very lowlevels of organic
matter. Claycontent is around 20%, but there is a lot or surface
erosion in the plots during heavy rainstorms.
This year her mulched trial plots again fared a lot betterthan theun-
mulched plots, both in terms of germination and growth. She tried both
the intercropping and crop rotation trials and also planted summer
cover crops (sunflower and a combination of millet and sunn hemp).
Her bean yields were good this year at around 2 tons/ha. But maize
yields were again a little disappointing in the area of 1,8t/ha (See
picture on the right).
Above left and right: The maize and bean intercrop plot during monitoring at the ned of January
2017.Sunflowers, intercropped with maize were growing enthusiastically.
Bulelwa has worked tirelessly with the VSLAs and with promoting CA and farmer
experimentation ideas in the villages where she is active. She was also instrumental again
this year in setting up and running the farmers’ day in the area.
This day was well represented by the local traditional authority and community members and
people came from a number of other villagesin the area, as well as from the grazing
management and donga rehabilitation programme supported through the INR, with around 56
people present.Stakeholder representatives did not arrive (SaveAct, Lima, DARD, LM). The
programme followed the same basic structure as other farmers’ days, with presentations by
stakeholders, testimonies given by farmers, and then smaller groups visiting trials and
watching the newly produced promotional DVD on CA in smallholder farming.
Above left and right: Tema from MDF making a list of interested participants for the next
season towards the ned of the session and the tent with participants at the farmer’s day getting
ready for their field visits.
The group voiced concerns in terms of labour, but testimonies from participating volunteers
put them at ease. They mentioned that planting a trial is a lot of work but that is well worth it
in terms of crop quality. Broadcasting seed andploughing it in is minimum effort but so are
your crops- minimal quality and quantity. Noluthando Pili, a first year volunteer, addressed
the crowd adding on that this way of growing food is precise, cheaper and rewarding. Mr
Thapelo Ramanyali from Mqhobi, a neighboring village where we’ve also just started,
echoed Mrs Pili’s words adding on that saving for inputs and teamwork is crucial especially
on bigger fields
Below are a few snapshots of thetrial plots of participantsfrom Nkau and Mqhobi. Generally
the beans and cowpeas have germinated and grown better than the maize which has again
shown quite patchy germination. A fewparticipants are following the instructions of mulching
with the weeds they are removing.
Above left and right: NKAU: Mamorema Libuke’s plot showing reasonable germination and
growth of beans, but rather patchymaize germination inJanuary 2017 And NoluthandoPili’s
well kept plot.
Above left and right: Paseka Mahase planted her trial and a sizeable plot of traditional maize
as a control. The harvestedmaize showing the larger moreeven cobs of the OPV (Borderking)
from the trial compared to the mixed colour cobs of her traditional maize.
Above left: Thapela Rhamanyali’s plot in Mqhobi. And Right: Ocean Khokhoto’s plot.They
both managed to harvest reasonable yields considering the below average growth of the
crops. They both planted control plots using traditional seed.
Below is a table summarising the monitoring results for Mqhobi.
TABLE8:SUMMARY OF TRIAL AND YIELD INFORMATION FOR THEMQHOBI (MATATIELE)LEARNING GROUP
At Planting (11-12 Dec 2016)
Types of grants
Types of weedsResidueWeeds MaizeBeansCowpeasMaizeBeansCowpeaSunflowerMilletSunn hempPlot sizeSeed usedYield
1Morena Khokhotho38 6 Unemployed
4 child support
13donkey, 3 cattle, 8
20 875257 No HarvestNo HarvestNo HarvestNo HarvestNo HarvestNo HarvestNo controln/an/a
2Zwelonke Siphamla64 1 Unemployed
1 pension1000 100m²65
nut grass + Kukuyu grass
20056No harvestNo harvest
No HarvestNo HarvestNoHarvestNo HarvestNo controln/an/a
3Tsatsi Motsapi6813 One son working
6 child support, 1
2 horses(sold), 3 horses
remaining, 15goats, 5
nut grass + Kukuyu grass
290 000No harvestNo harvest
No harvestNo harvestNoharvestNo harvestNo controln/an/a
4Thapelo Ramanyali73 4 Unemployed
1 child support, 2
50 76 6534
2,71,4No harvestNo harvestNo harvest0.813kg200m²
1 pension2862 100m²86
nut grass + Kukuyu grass
185505025 No harvestNo harvestNo harvestNo harvestNoharvestNo harvest
6Teboho Lecheko68 Employed
1 pension2625 100m²95
nut sedge, black
jack and broad
192627936 No harvestNo harvestNo harvestNo harvestNoharvestNo harvestNo controlNo controlNo control
100m²Never plantedNever planted
8Ocean Khokhotho63 8 Unemployed
6 child support, 2
maize, beans ,
Black jack, nut
33 76 56371,2 0,5
No harvest0.813kg 800m² Traditional0,2
AVERAGE 62 685 238 50 44281,95 0,65
Planting Monitoring data: Mqhobi (Matatiele)
Crop quality Monitoring data
The followings comments can be made for the group:
Of the 8 participantswho planted their 1styear trials only 3managed to produce a
Weed pressure prior to planting was very high- as is typical for this area- unused plots
with a lot of grass cover and moribund weeds.
This means that the potential efficacy of the pre-planting herbicides used (RoundUp
and Dual Gold) are substantially reduced.
Soil cover (residues) is very low at around 2% average for the participants
The two participants who harvested maize also managed to keep a little seed for the
summer cover crops grown (sunflower and sunn hemp).
Mqhobi yearly review session
Every learning group goes through a review and planning session at the end of each
season. Below some of the interesting points raised by the Mqhobi learning group in their
review, 27 July2017, are summarised:
Initially, when starting farmers thought this was a bit of a joke, but found that the
increased growth spoke volumes. Initial germination and growth for both trial and
control plots were more or lessthe same, but as the season went on trial maize
showed a lot more growth.
CMR beetles in beans was an issue during flowering and affected the yields of this
The group was interested in a farmer centre which could supply input packages
locally, as town trips are expensive and generally inputs are supplied in larger
quantities, which are difficult in terms of farmers’’ budgets and lack of access to
Farmers are aware that presently they spend more on producing maize than they get
out. Buying inputs at normal retail process is not affordable, more especially as they
don’t produce much as well.
The group is interested in setting up a VSLA to augment their bulk buying process
and feel that these initiatives will assist in the sustainability of their maize production.
The group has agreed to pay the input subsidies and feel that they can afford around
R300 for inputs.
Yiled results are not conclusive after this first season, except for a few participants
who have noticed a definite upswing in yields, but because of better growth farmers
are keen to continue experimenting with CA
Farmers are interested in focussing on beans as this a good staple crop for food
security and fetches a high price locally. They are interested totry and plant Gadra
twice per season as it is quick maturing.
Although it was their first time planting cover crops, farmers appreciate thepurpose
of cover crops to keep the soil covered, providing feed for livestock in winter and
putting in organic matter into the soil.
The later onsetof the rainy season and unpredictable rain is a major challenge for
farmers. This now means that they need to be working in their fields over the festive
season, as sometimes planting happensas late as early December. There are
severe labour challenges over this time.
Khutsong –Mr Tsoloane Mapheele
Mr Mapheele is still struggling to maintain andincrease the soil fertility and soil health status
in his fields. This year, for the first time (after 4 years of implementation) showed some
improvement in growth of his maize and beans in his trial plots. In addition, he managed to
maintain a planting of Lucerne that was planted last year, despite the fact that he no longer
has access to water for irrigation. Thisplot is grazed from time to time by his horses.
One of the contributing factors has been achievement of better germination, given that the
calibration of the animal drawn planter was finally sorted out. Our fieldworker, Mazwi Dlamini
assisted during panting.
Above left: Mr Mapheele during planting, using hisanimal drawn planter. Above right: His
maize stand and growth this year was substantially better than in previous seasons.
Right: Mr Mapheele’s
Lucerne field after grazing by
his horses, around April 2017.
Summary of issues and learnings from individual visits and monitoring
Uptake of CA in Southern KZN has been a lot morepromising than in the North-eastern
parts of Eastern Cape.
In Southern KZN there is a more definitedistinction between larger cropping fields
away fromhomesteadsand homesteadplots and fields. Forthe larger fields farmers
are not prepared to work there unless some form of mechanisation is offered. Given
also their inability to pay for inputs for these larger areas there is a high expectation of
support for inputs.
Both DARDand Grain SA- FDP provide mechanisation and input support for larger
fields. Both organisations focus on GM varieties of maize and soy in these fields,
although DARD also provides hybrid maize seed.
Because the CA SFIP trials are hand planted farmers see this as a systemto be used
insmall areas only. The idea that farmers would try this out in their homesteadplots
and then apply this farming system in their larger fields is not really happening as yet.
Soil and weather conditions in the different areas of the Harry Gwala DM– Creighton,
Ixopo, Umkomaas andHighflats, are quitevariable. For some areas this would mean
that maize production is mostly limited to their homestead plots and fields (specifically
Ofafa and Springvalley)
Working with other role players in the area, notablyKwaNalu and the LM’s has been
very positive and has brought this process closer to the other maize production service
Working through the Farmers Cooperatives has assisted in providing an organised
farmers’ base, but has also meant thatin these organisation only the members are
favoured andthey tend to be small with 4-10members per cooperative. A conscious
effort needs to be made to drawother community members in and specifically those
interested in homestead level production.
Participants need a lot more information and input around different herbicides, their
functions and dangers
The distinctions between OPV’s, hybrids and GMseed varieties are not well
Diseases in the bean plantings have been quite common in southern KZN –due in
part to the cooler moist conditions prevalent in this area. Both Pesudomonas and
Aschochyta bacterial blights have beenobserved.
Some successes with late season plantings of beans and cover crops has offered this
as a real alternative in a few of the areas- specifically Ofafa.
Stakeholder interactions have been positive in Southern KZN.
Given the results of the soil fertility tests, the fertilizer applications in most of these
areas can be reduced. Some attention needs to be given to those individuals needing
Yield analysis over time and the soil health test results show quite clearly the positive
effects of CA and specifically the intercropping and use of cover crops in CA as
Problems encountered, milestones not achieved and reasons for that
There are a few larger conceptual issues that may need some consideration going into the
future of this programme
1.One fieldworker can only manage to support a certain number of villages and farmers.
The higher numberof participantsand spread of villages this season has meantthat
further intensive interventions with farmers have been limited.
2.There is a high level of skill required from the facilitators/fieldworkers to deal with
issues throughout the value chain and deal with on the ground problems such as soil
borne diseases atthe same time. It may mean that introduction of fieldworkers into the
team with specialityfocus areas are required. Examples couldinclude stakeholders’
relationship buildingand management of stakeholder forums, researcher-managed
experimentation anddealing with specialist input requirements in trials.
3.There is still a mismatch in terms of profitability of maize production at a small scale
and the cost of inputs requiredforgood cropping practices –even with CA which is
somewhat cheaper than conventional tillage.
4.Subsidies will have to be included in this programme in the future
5.The researcher-managed aspects of monitoring and benchmarking have not really
happened for this project as only one fieldworker has beenemployed to fulfil this role
across all three smallholder projects. Given the intensification presentlyin the Bergville
site, he has not managed to spend the required time and effort in the SKZN and
6.Interns employed to assist with monitoring often do not have drivers’ licences and if
they do the additional need for vehicles further complicates the process. It means that
they generally can only go to the field when the fieldworker is going and restricts their
access to farmers somewhat. They also need tobe provided with office space and
computers and tablets for recording monitoring processes.