Water Research Commission (WRC) Deliverable (August 2024)
Analytical Framework
In the last few decades, there has been a high interest and a considerable attention to promote
Village Savings and Loans Associations (VLSAs) as alternative microfinance vehicles for broad-based
economic participation and sustainable livelihood objectives. VSLAs are continuously promoted as
alternative financial models that promise todeliver sustainable financial services to poor and
vulnerable populations.
The main objective of this case study is to explore factors that contribute towards greater success
and sustainability of farming business enterprises of farmers participating in the Mahlathini
Development Foundation (MDF) programmes. The study also wants to carry out an experience
review of VSLA and enterprise development approach that is employed by MDF. This case study
plans to collect data from a sample of 3-5 farmers in 5 communities found in Bergville, Midlands,
Southern KZN, Matatiele and Limpopoand that have been participating in the MDF programmes in
the last 5 years.
A series of questions to dissect the experiences of the operators of farming enterprises will be
developed. These questions will focus on probing operators’ experiences in terms of improved
success and sustainability of farming enterprises; and factors thatpush operators to make minimal
contribution or worse, abandon their farming enterprises. The key questions for this study are:
Main Question
What are factors contribute towards success and sustainability of farming
business enterprises?
1.Whichfarming business enterprises are active/operational(type, scope,
2.How dofarming business enterprises are able to contribute towards
improved livelihoods of their operators?
3.What are the profilesof participating farmers (and/or households) whose
enterprises are considered to besuccessful and sustainable versus those
that are not success or that are eventually abandoned?
4.What are characteristics of functional and non-functional farming
5.What methodological changes are needed to ensure that the activities of
farming business enterprises are successful and sustainable?
6.What is the impact of training and supervision by MDF, and which
specific training promotes success and sustainability of farming business
Commented [EK1]:Dear Nqe-Hmm I thought we were
going to focus on operational businesses only to dissect what
makes them tick. In ourlist of farmers we haven’t included
non operational ones… Can we maybe think of a way to deal
with that? Or do you want ot interview some of these folk as
Theoretical Framework
This will be an in-depth case study of small farming businesses (including farming related businesses)
whose operators participate in the farmer learning groups and the VSLA programme. This case study
wants to explore the factors that influence operators of small businesses to practice or not to
practice what they have learnt in the enterprise development and VSLA programmes, as well as
looking at ways to enhance learning for MDF and sustainable microfinance and enterprise
development. Thesustainable livelihoods theory (Chambers and Conway, 2002; Scoones, 1993) will
be used toexplore the participation of operators of small businesses, explore factors that contribute
towards greater success and sustainability of farming business enterprisesand to analyse how
operators learn while they participate in the MDF programmes.
The significance of sustainable livelihoods as a development theory in this study is that it
acknowledges that economic development does not always reduce poverty, but depends on the
capabilities of the people to take advantage of expanding economic growth. Sustainable livelihoods
also recognises that poverty relates to other dimensions other than income, and acknowledges that
poor people have solutions to development problems they face. Lastly, sustainable livelihoods takes
into consideration all other symptoms and manifestation of poverty including vulnerability, social
exclusion and marginalisation.
Chambers and Conway (1992) assert that;
“a livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks,
maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets, and provide sustainable livelihood
opportunities for the next generation; and which contributes net benefits to other
livelihoods at the local and global levels and in the short and long term (p. 7).
Informed by this assertion, sustainable livelihoods theory has been widely used by development
agencies incommunity development,researchand policydevelopmentbecause sustainable
livelihoodstheory provides a programming planning tool, analytical framework as well as
monitoring, evaluation, review and learning (MERL) framework for development programmes.
Characteristics of a Functional Business Enterprise
The following are main characteristics of afunctional business enterprise.
The product or service is clearly defined
The operator is knowledgeable about the product/service and the business
The operator has adequate technical knowledge of the business activity
The operator has sufficient general knowledge about the business activityincluding
understanding competition, risks, threats, opportunities, etc.
The market (buyers) is clearly described and understood by the business operator
The business has a budget and cash flow “plan”
Commented [EK2]:Are we not going to find out from
farmers what makes their businesses successful -or is this
just a generic list .
How will you decide for example whether and operator in
knowledgeable, and has adequate technical knowledge.
The operator is able to keep business records and use them to take decisions including adjusting
business strategy
The operator is able to raise operating capital when required
The business has a separate account from the operator
The business has assets
The operator is able to keep business records
The operator is able to pay expenses, debts and liabilities of a business
The operator is able to draw salary/wage from the business before profit
The business generates adequate profit
The business is a key source of income of the household as is able to meet at least 50% of the
household’s financial needs
Data Collection
Data collection will employ desktop research, interviews, focus group discussions (FGDs)and a
findings discussion workshop of the MDF team. Desktop research or literature review will mainly
include past research reports and programme reports produced by MDF. Interviews and FGDs will be
used to collect qualitative data from farmers that participate in the VSLA and Farmer Learning Group
(FLG) programmes and farmers that operate farming enterprises. A discussion workshop will mainly
deal with success and sustainability factors of farming enterprises, MDF’s implementation approach
and methodology, training and supervision, monitoring, evaluation, review and learning (MERL),
limitations and recommendations of the study.
Data Analysis
The qualitative data collected will be recorded and coded. Emerging trends will be analysed. This
analysis will be carried out by iterations every evening during data collection, so that adjustments
could be made to collection tools to explore certain trends in greater depth. The analysis will focus
on estimating the factors to ensure the success of enterprise development programme, which is
defined as generation of enough profit margins on sustainable basis to meet all or part of a
household's needs. Sustainability will be assessed from the point of view of continuity of farming
enterprises, improved resilience and ability of operators tocope with stresses and shocks. Data will
be examined with due consideration for these definitions, in particular by asking participantshow
they would define successand sustainability. For each of the questions, the analysis will attempt to
define a model profile for a successful or unsuccessful farming enterprise.
Semi-Structured Interview Guide (Questionnaire)
1.Tell me about your participation in the MDF programmes.
Farmer Learning Group
Savings Groups
Probe. Why do you participate? What are the benefits? What is your contribution? What is your
role in this?
Commented [EK3]:How to deal with the issue of focus and
scale - some people just try and sell surplus of whatever they
have whenever they have it -and that generally doesn’t work
- so how did they decide on the focus? What have they
learnt about demand and supply? How have external forces
impacted on their approach?
We somehow have to untangle from a farmers’ perspective
why formal markets aren’t accessible to them - who have
they approached formal markets- what have been the
outcomes, what do they think they still need to know or
have to enter into these kinds of arrangements… do they
thin it is even an option
Commented [EK4]:We also need to tackle the diverse
range of activities coming together in some form of synergy
to create multiple small income streams that create a
livelihood - this is our focus -not commodities within existing
value chains..
Commented [EK5]:I was thinking we would get a good
summary of each of the different income generation
activities a farmer is undertaking - and then add these all up
with the different inputs and output flows to show how they
combine to make a livelihood??/
2.How many savings groups are you a member of? Probe. Why do you participate in a savings
3.What is your businessor businesses (combination of enterprises)? Probe. What does it do?
When was it started (year)? How long have you operated your business?How did you decide to
do this business
4.How did you learn to operate your business enterprise?
5.Did you receive any training from MDF, if yes, what sort of training?
6.Who are your main customers?
7.How do you reach your customers?
8.Do you see yourself as successful? Probe.
9.What challenges have you encountered and how have you dealt with them?
10.What have been your major achievements?
11.How have you financed your business in the past?
12.Have you used money from your savings groups to finance your business in the last:
3 months
6 months
2 years
13.Do you make profit? How do you know?
14.On average, how much do you make per month? (or per production/yields)
15.What business records do you keep? Probe. Why is it important to keep business records?
16.What support including training do you wish MDF has provided to you?
17.What are your key business lessons from your experience?
18.In your view what are the factors promoting and inhibiting sustainable business practice?
19.Any other comments?
FGD Schedule
Guiding questions
1.What is your understanding ofenterprise development programme?
2.How do you operate your business enterprise?
3.How did you learn to operate your business enterprise?
4.Did you receive any training from MDF, if yes, what sort of training?
5.How were you selected to participate in this programme?
6.What was the selection criterion?
7.What was involved in the MDF enterprise developmentprogramme?
8.Are there any benefits of participating in the MDF programmes, if so what are the long term and
short term benefits?
9.What are the major successes of the enterprise development programme?
10.What were the major challenges in the programme, have the challenges been resolved. If yes
how were they resolved?
11.Arethere any plans for continuing with activities whenMDFstops tosupport the programme? If
so, what plans and, how were the plans developed?
12.What do you think should have been done differently?
13.Any other comments?
Commented [EK6]:Different small enterprises, different
customers- how do you find your customers- how does this
change or has it changed? What strategies do you employ? (
I am assuming a combination of approaches- farmgate,
schools, local markets, shops, bakkie traders, etc - doubt it
will just be one- need to maybe compare which ones work
better for what
Commented [EK7]:Don’t we need a more in-depth
moment here- I know you did look at it in the livelihoods one
- can you compare the present list of people that were
interviewed there? Lets try and find some overlap there - can
you do this comparison and send to me asap...
Commented [EK8]:Hmm.. Who do you envisage to be part
of the FGD? You are assuming we have a coherent enterprise
development programme - which we actually don’t -
Commented [EK9]:We have focused on inputs and
cashflows for this as well as production, but after that
farmers have pretty much been on their own… except for
the monthly local marketing activities - and we still want
some idea of how much this contributes compared to their
other marketing strategies… which this focus group will not
do.. Need a little rethink here
Maybe a focus group on the few most active people in the
market and then they compare this with their other
activities? How they plan, what they produce, logistics, sales,
strategies for improvement, diversification etc...