Submitted to:
Executive Manager: Water Utilisation in Agriculture
Water Research Commission
Project team:
Mahlathini Development Foundaction(MDF)
Erna Kruger
Temakholo Mathebula
Betty Maimela
Nqe Dlamini
Institute of Natural Resources (INR)
Brigid Letty
Environmental and Rural Solutions (ERS)
Nickie McCleod, Sissie Mathela
Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD)
Derick du Toit
Project Number: C2022/2023-00746
Project Title: Dissemination and scaling of a decision support framework for CCA for smallholder
farmers in South Africa
Deliverable No.5:Local food systems and marketing strategies contextualized - Guidelines for
Date: 08 December2023
2.Process planning and progress to date..........................................................................................5
Smallholder farmers in climate resilient agriculture learning groups............................................6
Communication and innovation.....................................................................................................9
Multistakeholder platforms.........................................................................................................11
2.1Stakeholder engagement in the community level resource conservation activities...........13
2.2Training of trainers and communities in CCA and local food systems................................. 16
3.Local Food Systems and Marketing..............................................................................................17
3.2MDF Contextual Framework................................................................................................19
3.3Case Study: Resilience in local food systems.......................................................................22
b.Project summary..................................................................................................................23
c.Monitoring and Evaluation...................................................................................................23
d.Local incomes and marketing...............................................................................................34
3.4CASE STUDY: Strengthening local food systems in the Midlands of kwaZulu Natal.............37
a.Understanding Local Food Systems: Ozwathini...................................................................37
b.Understanding Local Food Systems: Swayimane................................................................40
c.MDF interventions to strengthen local food systems in the Midlands................................42
d.References for this case study..............................................................................................47
3.5CASE STUDY: Village Saving and Loan Associations (VSLAs) and Livelihoods.......................48
b.Problem Statement..............................................................................................................48
c.The Aim of the Study............................................................................................................48
d.How do VSLAs work?............................................................................................................49
e.Literature Review.................................................................................................................49
j.References for this case study..............................................................................................58
3.6Recommendations and guidelines.......................................................................................60
4.Work plan: January-February 2024..............................................................................................61
This section provides a brief summary of the project vision, outcomes and operational details.
Vertical and horizontal integration of this community- based climate change adaptation (CbCCA)
model and process leads to improved water and environmental resources management,
improved rural livelihoods and improved climate resilience for smallholder farmers in communal
tenure areas of South Africa.
1.Scaling out and scaling up of the CRA frameworks and implementation strategies lead to
greater resilience and food security for smallholder farmers in their locality.
2.Incorporation of the smallholder decision support framework and CRA implementation into
a range of programmatic and institutional processes
3.Improved awareness and implementation of appropriate agricultural and water
management practices and CbCCA in a range of bioclimatic and institutional settings
4.Contribution of a robust CC resilience impact measurement tool for local, regional and
national monitoring processes.
5.Concrete examples and models for ownership and management of local group-based water
access and infrastructure.
Create and strengthen integrated institutional frameworks and mechanisms for
scaling up proven multi-benefit approaches that promote collective action and
coherent policies.
Scaling up integrated approaches and practices in CbCCA.
Monitoring and assessment of environmental benefits and agro-ecosystem
Improvement of water resource management and governance, including
community ownership and bottom-up approaches.
Deliverable Title
Target Date
Desk top review for CbCCA
in South Africa
Desk top review of South African policy,
implementation frameworks and
stakeholder platforms for CCA.
R100 000,00
Report: Monitoring
framework, ratified by
multiple stakeholders
Exploration of appropriate monitoring
tools to suite the contextual needs for
evidence-based planning and
R100 000,00
Handbook on scenarios and
options for successful
smallholder financial
Summarize VSLA interventions in SA, Govt
and Non-Govt and design best bet
implementation process for smallholder
microfinance options.
services within the South
Development of CoPs and
multi stakeholder platforms
Design development parameters, roles
and implementation frameworks for CoPs
at all levels, CRA learning groups,
Innovation and multi stakeholder
platforms; within the CbCCA framework.
Report: Local food systems
and marketing strategies
contextualized - Guidelines
for implementation
Guidelines and case studies for building
resilience in local food systems and local
marketing strategies towards sustainable
local food systems (local value chain)
Case studies: encouraging
community ownership of
water and natural resources
access and management
Case studies (x3) towardsproviding an
evidence base for encouraging community
ownership of natural resource
management through bottom-up
approaches and institutional recognition
of these processes.
Case studies: CbCCA
implementation case studies
in 3 different agroecological
zones in SA
CbCCA implementation case studies in 3
different agroecological zones within
South Africa
Refined CbCCA decision
support framework with
updated databases and CRA
Refined CbCCA DSS database and
methodology with inclusion of further
viable and appropriate CRA practices
Manual for implementation
of successful
multistakeholder platforms
in CbCCA
Methodology and process manual for
successful multi stakeholder platform
development in CbCCA
Final Report
Final report: Summary of all findings,
guidelines and case studies, learning and
(Feb 2026)
Deliverable 5 focusses on development of a set of broad guidelines for promoting local food systems
and marketing and resilience thereof, linked to descriptive examples and cases from practice.In
addition,work has continued within the three levels of Communities of practice (CoP) and progress is
reported upon in this report.
The intention is threefold, as describe below and shown in the diagram:
Expand introduction and implementation of the CbCCA DSS framework within the areas of
operation of MDFwith a number of different communities. Work with existing communities
as the basis of the case studies in specific thematic areas.
Introduce and implement the CbCCA DSS framework with a range of other role-players
expanding into new areas, including different agroecological zones and
Work at multistakeholder level to introduce the methodology as an option for adaptation
planning and action, both within civil society and also including Government stakeholders.
This is the first step towards institutionalization of the processand will involve mainly working
within existing multistakeholder platforms and networks as the starting point.
Further exploration of the categories of stakeholders and the roles and relationships between
stakeholders is important for the present research brief.
Figure 1: Conceptualization of stakeholder platforms at multiple levels to support CbCCA
Smallholder farmers in climate resilient agriculturelearning groups
This process has been initiatedby continuing and strengthening specificCRA learning groups,which
have been supported by MDF in the past and whohave done well in implementation and building of
social agency. These groups will provide the focus for further exploration of food systems, water
stewardship and governance and engagement with local and district municipalities.
CRA learning group summary:
No of participants
Ezibomvini, Stulwane, Vimbukahlo, Eqeleni, Emadakaneni
Ozwathini, Gobizembe, Mayizekanye, Ndlaveleni
Mahhehle,Mariathal, Centocow, Plainhill, Ngongonini
Sedawa, Turkey, Mulati, Santeng, Worcester, Sophaya
Ned, Nchodu, Nkau, Rashule, Mzongwana
Table 1: Micro-level CoP engagement: February to December 2023
Note: Collaborative strategies in bold undertaken during this reporting period
Establishing learning groups at
village level
2022/11/25, 12/09
2022/11/15, 11/29,
Limpopo: Sophaya
SKZN: Mahhehle -CCA workshop x 2 days,
Bergville: Eqeleni
Innovation and multistakeholder platforms-
Communication and innovation
Smallholder farmers in CRA learning groups
National Networks e.g. Adaptation
network, Agroecology Network
National organistions e.g., PGS-SA and
Regional forums e.g., Water Source
Areas forums (WWF) Living
catchments Forums (SANBI)
Cluster of LGs within and between
areas learn and implement CRA
These clusters ineteract with external
stakeholders e.g., NGOs, Government
Deparments, Local and District
Municipalities, traditional authorities
and Water Service authorities
Individual farmers in LGs learn and
implement CRA together
LG's set up other interest groups and
committees e.g., water committees,
viallge savings and loan assocations,
marketing groups, livestock associations
and resource conservaiotn agreements
2023/06/15, 07/07
EC: Ned, Nkau
Limpopo: Madeira
KZN Midlands: Ndlaveleni, Montobello, Noodsberg, Inkuleleko primary
Training and mentoring for
climate resilient agriculture
2022/02/27, 03/28
2022/03/08, 03/17,
2023/04/, 2023/05,
2023/04/21,25, 05/26,
Midlands: Ozwathinicontouring workshop SKZN: Mahhehle tower
EC-Matatiele: Drip irrigation workshops in 5 villages
SKZN: CA demonstration workshops in 3 villages
SKZN: Plainhill Drip irrigation training
Limpopo: Sofaya trench beds
SKZN: Mahhehle tower gardens, poultry production, trench beds
SKZN: Mariathal gardens and experimentation
Bgvl: Madakaneni, Mahlathinigardening training
EC: Ned, Nchodu poultry production
EC: Nec, Nchodu, Mzongwana- Pest and disease control
Limpopo and KZN: trench bed training with assembling of tunnels for 45
households across 8 villages, including distribution of seedlings, mixed
cropping and mulching learning inputs and drip irrigation
Limpopo: Willows, Sedawa, MametjaSophaya. Bergville-Matwetha,
EmadakaneniNatural Pest and Disease control
Bergville, SKZN: Poultry production: eMadakaeneni, Mjwetha, Mariathal,
EC: Ned, Nkau, Rashule, Nchodu- Soil and water conservation
Matatiele: Multiprupose chicken production and cage construction
(Ned(13), Rashule(22), Nchodu(23)
Matatiele: Nchodu -Value Adding training (32)
Limpopo: Boschvelder feeding and management training x 5 villages
(50 participants)
Limpopo (30): CA demonstrations and farmer level experimentation:
intercropping cover crops
Cyclical implementation through
mentoring for capacity
development for LG at local level
CCA review and planning workshops
-Bergville: CA review and planning (5)
-Midlands: CA review and planning (3)
-Limpopo: CCA review and planning (4)
CCA prioritization of practices
-Matatiele: 5 villages (Ned, Nchodu, Rahsule, Nkau, Mzongwana
-All areas: garden monitoring,poultry support,tunnel and drip kit
installations,VSLAs monthly meetings
KZN-Bergville Boschvelderchicken delivery and maintenance
mentoring for 45 participants
KZN: Bergville_CA farmer experimentationplanting for 124
participants, incl cover crops
Income diversification and
economic empowerment of
local farmers (LG at local level)
03/03, 04/03, 05/02,
06/02, 07/04, 08/05,
09/03, 10/05,
2022/10/08, 11/07,
12/02, 2023/01/27,
02/07, 07/04, 08/05,
Market days: monthly farmers markets
-Midlands: Bamshela (Ozwathini)
-SKZN: Creighton (Centocow)
-Ubuhlebezwe LED Ixopo flea market
- Bergville: Bergville town
Market exploration workshops
-Midlands: Mayizekanye, Gobizembe
-EC_Ned-Nchodumarket day in Matatiele
-SKZN: Mariathal
PGS follow-up w/s Limpopo
SKZN: Mahhehle
VSLA introduction
-SKZN: Mahhehle
VSLA meetings and share outs
-Bergville: 9
-SKZN: Ngongonini (2), Centocow (4)
-Midlands: Ozwathini (6)
Limpopo: (7)
Youth tala table value adding training.
-Livelihoods survey- all areas
July-Sept 2023
Implementation and capacity
development for innovation (3)
and multi-stakeholder platforms
May-July 2023
2023/03/30, 06/02
2023/08/23, and 09/27
-SKZN: CentocowP&D control cross visit and learning workshop
-uThukela water source forum: Visioning and action planning Bergville
-Adaptation Network AGM
-Regenerative Agric farmers’ day in Bergville incl Asset research,
uThukela Water Source Forum, uThukela Development Agency
-Adaptation Network: CCA financing dialogue
-SANBI_gender mainstreaming dialogue
-WRC-ESS: Bglv Ezibomvini, Stulwane resource management mapping
and planning
Bergillve:Stulwnaeweekly community resource management workdays
-Okahlamba LED forum
-Farmers X visit between Bulwer (supported by the INR0 and Bergville
around CRA, fodder and restoration
-PGS-SA: market training input: Online training Session 5
-Giyani Local Scale Climate resilience Project: Introduction of CCA model
and local water governance options.
-World Vision:CCA workshops for women cooperatives and LED project
(60 participants)
-Giyani Climate resilience project: Input into WRC reference group
-KZN DARD_ Okahlamba Agricultural Show: display and talk
ACDI: Dialogue on community adaptation and resilience (Stellenbosch)
Food systems article for newsletter
WWF-Business Network meeting (SAPPI Durban)- presentation
Joint Bergville learning group local marketing review session
Gcumisa_multistakeholder innovation meeting with the INR, ~60
participants (value adding, stokvels and local marketing
Food systems dialogue: online event
Uthukela water source forum: Core team meeting and
Multistakeholderfield visit around community resource conservation
in Stulwane (Bgvl)
Indicator development for
evidence-based indicators, M&E
and handbook development
2023/01/30- 02/03
March-May 2023
June 2023
2023/10/16-20, 11/13-
Limpopo: Focus Group discussions for VSLA and microfinance for the
rural poor x 3 (Turkey, Worcester, Santeng)
Garden monitoring:
-SKZN: Plainhill
-EC: 5 villages
CA monitoring
-EC:5 villages
-KZN: Bergville -30, Midlands 15, SKZN 15
-All areas: Poultry production list
-All areas: Livelihoods survey for farmgate sales and asset accumulation
-M&E resilience indicatordevelopment team meeting and processwith
k Kotschy
Implementation of sustainable
water management
2023/03/25, 06/15
2023/04/25, 06/01,02,
09/14,10/09-14, 11/06-
KZN: Bergville: Stulwane Conflict man and upgrading spring protection.
EC: Nkau: Water walk and meetings for spring protection and
KZN: Bgvl Stulwane_ Engineer visits (Alain Marechal) for scenario
development and follow up planning meetings with community. Set up
committee, work parties and start on quotes and budget outline
KZN: Bgvl Vimbukhalo: Governance of communal borehole water supply
KZN: Bgvl Stulwane_ Engineer visits (Alain Marechal) for scenario
development and follow up planning meetings with community. Set up
committee, work parties and start on quotes and budget outline. Work
on scheme initiated.
Organisational& capacity
2023/02/09, 02/16
-MDF AGM and organisational capacity development workshop
-Mentoringand planning with new finance officer to implement SODI
financial reporting system
- Internal short learning event for rainfall and runoff results, as well as
soil fertility and Organic carbon
- Mentoring in CCA workshop implementation. Temakholo from
Midlands assisted Bergville team
-Team session on gender mainstreaming
- UKZN- Ecological mapping and use of resource planning Bgvl team
-VSLAs review and discussion re group based rules, BLF updates
- Nutrient analysis for livestock fodder options: facilitated by Brigid Letty
from the INR
-Small business development support planning and Livelihoods survey
-MDF AGM and organisational capacity development workshop
Communication and innovation
This aspect relates to platforms for sharing and learning with clusters of learning groups (LGs).
For this quarter the following innovation platforms have been supported:
ØMametja-Sekororo annual PGS assessments: 3 villages (16). Aug2023
ØMarketing review and planning: 5 villages in Bergville (35). Sept2023
ØKZN CA forum: Cedara KZN: Cover crops day (24 Bergville, Midlands)
ØGoat production training: Combined MDF-KZNDARD event for 6 villages (46)
Below are brief summaries of these events.
The Mametja-Sekororo PGS in Limpopo convened to re-elect their PGS committee (Participatory
guarantee System under SAOSO- South African Organic Sector Organisation) and to start their
annual farmer assessment and review process. The field assessment looks at the farmer’s practices,
including the use of organic inputs and methods, soil management, pest management, water
conservation, and farming methods. During the assessment, the farmer must demonstrate that they
are following organic standards and guidelines, so that the assessments can be used to make
decisions around Organic endorsement and provision of Certificates and associated organic branding
for produce. 16 farmers in Sedawa/Mametja and Turkey were assessed for organic certification this
Figure 2: Above left: The tala talble Netowrk meeting for re-election of the PGS committee and Above right: The committee
nad volunteer farmers undertaking a PGS field assessment
In Bergville KZN, a marketing review and planning session was held on the 13th of Spetember 2023
as an innovation platform event, combining participants from the 6 active viallges (Ezibomvini,
Eqeleni, Stulwane, Vimbukhalo, Ezinyonyane and Ematwetha, 34 participants). Here we analysed
with the groups the summary of market sales from their initiation in 2021 to date, to look at trends
and issues and also held group discussions around future plans.
Figure 3: Analysis of market incomes and number of participants from 2021 to date for Bergville.
We discussed these trends in terms of produce quantity, quality and diversity and also the
invovelemnt of famrers and number of farmers selling. A number of issues were discussed in small
groups and suggesitons made for imporvements. In addition each viallge undertook to set up a more
formalized marketing committee to coordinate the production, avaiability, transport nad sale of
thier crops for the markets. Belwo is a summarized list of proposed solutions:
-Farmers need to plan and communicate before the day of the market who brings what to
avoid having no diversity.
-Agree on the same scales for produce that is to have the same price, use a rope or tape
measure to scale, and have different prices for different ranges/sizes of produce.
-Having tower gardens, so that farmers will use grey water for irrigation, to partly address the
water access issue.
-Have a market on a couple of consecutive days and consider having a market in Winterton as
well during pension/grant payment days.
-Coordinate before and put on tags before getting to the market and choose one person to
handle/keep the sales money to avoid shortages.
-farmers should support each other, promote unity, sell as one at the market and avoid
promoting one’s own produce only.
-Farmers should take produce and walk around town for produce to sell faster and improve
sales to avoid having to reduce prices later in the day and produce staying too long in the
-Produce must be clean and always packaged nicely, spinaches washed and tied nicely with
strings, produce with dark spots and holes should not be taken to the market as such would
create an unpleasant image to customers about the quality of the markets’ produce and
-Farmers must be punctual, and start the market early in the morning, to address the
problem of starting late and going back home with produce as a result of having less time to
-Farmers should buy or bring their own extra tables, to accommodate more produce.
-Display banners to attract customers.
Figure 4: Above Left and right: Small group discussions at viallge level to outline possible solutions to arising issues in the
local marketing processes.
The Livestock production training for livestock associations in the Swayimane region of the Mdlands
in KZN, was jointly planned nad run by MDf and the KZNDARD and consisted of a session in August23
on cattle production and one on 4th November 2023 for goatproduction. Both included a
substantial seciton on fodder and fooder production as well as cover crops.
Figure 5: Left: Goat production training with MDF and KZNDARD for livestock assocation members in Ozwathini. Right: Title
slide of TemaMathebula‘s (MDF)presentation.
To date the research team has participated in a range multistakeholder platforms, networks and
communities of practices (CoPs) towards developing a framework for awareness raising,
dissemination and incorporation of the CbCCA-DSS methodology into local andregional planning
processesand developing methodological coherence for a number of the themes to be explored in
this brief.
In this present period of July-December 2023the following stakeholder engagement activities have
been undertaken:
ØNorthernDrakensberg catchment forumfield visit, community cross visitsandESS mapping
ØGiyani Local Scale Climate resilience Project: Ref group input,
field visits and development of guideline drafts (example
Conceptual discussion on a range of topics including vulnerability
assessments, the role ofagroecology in CCA, methods for monitoring
and evaluation of multistakeholder processes, development of
stakeholder platforms and inclusion of volumetric water benefit
accounting as a tool forimplementationof integrated water resources
management have been ongoing.
The table below outlines actions and meetings to date.
Table 2: Planning and multi stakeholder interactions for the CCA-DSSII research process: December 2023
Activity - Description
Asset Research-
Maize Trust, SODI
Regenerative Agriculture farmers’ open day in Bergville
Annual Maize Trust CA forum workshop, BethlehemMDF
23rdFeb 2023
10thOctober 2023
ESS research - WRC
UKZN research in ecosystem services mapping supported by MDF:
water walks, focus group discussions, planning, eco-champs, spring
protection work in Stulwane, thematic and mapping workshops in
Ezibomvini and Stulwane, local level planning and implementation.
Cross visit Ezibomvini to Stulwane to see resource management
Finalisation and handover of maps, updated community resource
management plans for Ezibomvini and Stulwane
Final report preparation and ref group meeting
23rdSeptember 2022
14thOctober 2022
13,29,30 March 2023
1-30thMay 2023
29th September 2023
18th October 2023
22nd November 2023
WWF Water source
uThukela catchment partnership: Stakeholder meetings, online and in
person at OLM board room Bergville (new name: Northern
Drakensberg Collaborative). Development of vision, membership
profile, constitution and core team and full collaborative meetings
Core team meeting for visioning and constitution development
Multistakeholder field day forcommunity level resource
conservation in Stulwane, Bergville
29thSeptember 2022
10thNovember 2022
11thApril 2023
23rdMay 2023
23rdAugust 2023
28thSeptember 2023
SANBI- Living
Social facilitation capacity building workshop Western Cape; M
Olifants’ water indaba: M Malinga, N Mbokazi, H Hlongwane, B
Maimela and E Kruger
Video on local initiatives in catchment management
3rd-5thOctober 2022
30thOct-2ndNov 2022
24thMarch 2023
Climate change adaptation and gender mainstreaming dialogue
presentation and participation
SANBI newsletter- runoff impacts of restoration and CA
8th-9thMarch 2023
4thJune 2023
Adaptation Network
Policy input and AGM
Ongoing input and involvement in the Capacity development working
group: to implement thenew Civil Society OrganisationSkills
Enhancement and Excellence Development (CSO SEED) project,
funded by the Flanders government.Some of these activities include
youth-led participatory videos on adaptation initiatives and some
thematic field visits and exchanges between AN CSO member projects.
Meetings with AN to discuss capacity building and outline CCA training
for Socio technical Interface NGO in Hammanskraal
AN newsletter: Food systems article by Tema Mathebula
13thOctober 2022
1stDecember 2022
7th, 8thFeb 2023
15thMarch 2023
11thMay 2023
15thJune 2023
20thSeptember 2023
16thNovember 2023
Quarterly meeting: Discuss mapping of PGS organisations, finalisation
of certificate and use ofsealsand logos.Finalisation of smallholder
farm assessment form
17thNov 2022
This provides a case study of the community level resource conservation activities and research
demonstrations undertaken under the auspices of the WRC and WWF acrossthree different
projects, in collaboration with UKZN, SAEON, the Instituteof Natural Resources and the Wild Trust.
This has been undertaken at two levels, starting with a multistakeholder field visit on the 27th
September 2023, and followed the next day by a community level cross visit between the Ezibomvini
and Stulwane villages.
Through the SANBI-funded Living Catchments Project, a multi-stakeholder partnership was initiated
in the upper uThukela Catchment in 2021. Building on this, WWF-SA has supported the
strengthening and expansion of the partnership to include other stakeholders within the Northern
Drakensberg Strategic Water Source Area (SWSA). This partnership is now known as the Northern
Drakensberg Collaborative (NDC). Over the last two years, face-to-face and online meetings of
partners have taken place and have allowed for sharing of experiences as well as discussions around
the vision and functioning of the partnership. After the last workshop that took place at Alpine
Heath in August 2023, the conveners felt that there would be value in arranging a field trip to
Stulwanecommunity outside Winterton, to allow for some learning and reflection around real-life
cases of spring protection, community action, climate smart agriculture and environmental
PGS-Certification working group
Online market development training: Input into session 5
13thFeb 2023
9thMay 2023
Okhahlamba LM
Agriculture and Land summit: MDF presentation and marketing stall:
All Bergville staff, farmers representatives and eco champs
Okahlamba LED forum meetings
OLM support with transport for farmers’ markets and tractors for
field preparation
Okhahlamba Agricultural show
30thNovember 2022
30thMarch 2023,7th
June 2023
29thAugust 2023
research Centre
Maloti-Drakensberg Climate Change Workshop
Wageningen/UFS: Land futures course - Bgvl
12-14 December 2022
7-10thMarch 2023
Water Research
Commission/ AWARD
Giyani Local Scale Climate Resilience Project:
Support for CCA and VSLAs
Water governance and infrastructure management community
dialoguein Mayephu, Giyani for development of guidelines and
proof of concept
WRC-Inauguralref grp meeting for: Enterprise development and
innovation for rural water schemes- GLSCRP
8-10thMay 2023
10th-14thJuly 2023
30th-31stOctober 2023
3rdand 29thNovember
Partnershipand ERS
Nicky McCleod, Sissie
Webinar toreview CRA and spring protection implementation and
plan for future projects
Planning for combined spring protection in Nkau and next deliverable
8thNov 2022
15thJune 2023
AWARD Derick du
Meeting in Hoedspruit to discuss AWARD’s contribution
Youth induction programmeTala Table network
Planning for CRA learning group expansion, Mametja-Sekororo PGS
Group marketing review and farm level assessments
2ndNovember 2022
30thJanuary 2023
22ndMarch 2023
8thMay 2023,
29thSeptember 2023
Karen Kotshcy
Learning in M&E interest group meeting. Discussions re methodology
for UCP and Tsitsaproject multi stakeholder engagement evaluation
Discussions and MoU development for M&E framework and indicator
developmentand submission of report for WRC deliverable 4.
Development of Climate resilient indicators for CbCCA
11thNovember 2022
15thMay 2023
24thMay 2023
16-20thOctober, 13th-
rehabilitation. One of the intended outcomes of the fieldtrip was to take the partnership forward
towards establishing themes of communities of practice that have more focused interactions.
A group of about 45 people met at the community hall in Emmaus on the 27th September 2023. The
group comprised farmers supported by Mahlathini Development Foundation, staff from Ezemvelo,
Maluti-Drakensberg Transfrontier programme, the Expanded Freshwater and Terrestrial
Environmental Observation Network (EFTEON), Institute of Natural Resources (INR), Endangered
Wildlife Trust (EWT), African Conservation trust (ACT), Agricultural Research Council (ARC),
WILDTRUST, members of clearing and restoration teams working with WILDTRUST and INR, and a
representative of the local No-till Club who is a local commercial farmer. The event was hosted by
Mahlathini, which is the main organisation working with the Stulwane community and a
presentation was made by Temakholo Mathebula, a Project Officer with Mahlathini, to provide a
context for the field visit. The participants then travelled through to Stulwane, where community
members, supported by Mahlathini staff, explained their activities to visitors.
Mrs Nelisiwe Mselefrom the Stulwane/Coston Learning group and water committeeexplained the
process that has been taken to protect springs and improve access to water for households, which is
currently being expanded to include additional households. This process is led by the locally elected
water committee and is community driven, managed and owned. Ms Lizzy Dlamini, a young eco-
champ from the village, explained the nature of the restoration activities and how some of the
interventions have been taken forward through community action that is undertaken on a voluntary
basis. Back at the home of Mrs Msele, where lunch was served, there was opportunity for more
discussion as well as a demonstration of some the agricultural technologies being promoted by
Mahlathini, such as the two-row minimum tillage planter, the agroecological and water conservation
practices and the micro-tunnels for intensive vegetable production.
Figure 6: A stakeholder visit to the donga rehabilitation and re-grassing site in Costone, a visit to the spring based water
supply system and a farmer explains the climate smart food security system.
15 Members of the village-based learning group in Ezibomvini, visited Costone on the 28thof
September to learn about the resource conservation activities this group has undertaken in their
village. The Costone community showcased their litter clean-up campaign to keep their rivers and
streams clean, showed the gulley reclamation and erosion control work their have undertaken in
their grazing area, the wattle clearing in their riverine systems and their work on digging ditches in
preparation for their most recent local water scheme development. This entails reticulating water
from two sources high up in the hills, to the two sections of their village, to benefit around 75
households. They explained that community workdays were undertaken every Thursday. Activities
are organised through the climate resilient agriculture learning groups, the livestock association and
the traditional authority in the village.
The initial push for these activities were undertaken during the winter season and participants
benefited from having access to wood from the cleared wattle in the riverbeds. At the moment,
most of these activities are on hold, to allow for the community’sfield cropping activities.
Some of the learnings shared by the Costone group is that it is good to start with only the few
people who initially turn up for the joint working days and not to try and make sure everyone is
there from the start. Other community members will see them working and will join the activities
over time. This is how it worked in Costone. In addition, unity in the community is very important.
When they started, they had different smaller groups doing different activities, as their plan was
ambitious and there isa lot to do. So one group worked on waster clearing and another on stone
packing. This caused a bit of unhappiness in terms of the division of labour. Thereafter, they worked
at a more measured pace with everyone involved in one activity at a time, which worked much
Figure 7: Ezibomvini cross-visit, with group discussing alien clearing at one of the riverine sites in Costone, gulley
reclamation at the stone packs above the dip tank and having a focus group discussion to talk through implementation
strategies and plans.
The Ezibomvini participants reported the following:
-There is little unity in Ezibomvini and when meetings are called to discuss the resource
management issues very people come, which makes it hard to pass on messages and start
the work.
-After the first meetings in March and June, Mr Nkabinde (Livestock association member)
went to have a chat with the owners of the land where the wetland is, asked for permission
and explained to them that there is a plan made to protect the wetland and replant
indigenous vegetation and medicinal plants back to the wetland. The Sibiya family agreed
and gave the community permission, as the wetland falls within their ‘land allocation’ and
nominally belongs to them.He then went to another wetland at the top (above Phumelele
Hlongwane’s household), where there is an abundance of medicinal plants (Kalumuzi and
Gobho). The idea is to take root stock from this wetland to replant in the degraded and over-
harvested wetland lower down.
-A decision was made to advertise the community litter clean-up community campaign and
the first working day at the ward council meeting on the 7thof October.
-The community had identified the access road as one of the key areas. They had planned to
do some repairing for vehicles to be able to go into the area. Mr Hlongwane (community
ward committee) started by speaking to who arranged for the Okahlamba Local Municipality
to bring their road constructing machinery and some repairs were undertaken. For the
community it was unexpected and very positive that these kinds of requests are actually
heeded by the municipality.
-Phumelele Hlongwane (CRA learning group facilitator) commented that the cross visit has
given them ideas of how to go about implementing their plans.
A suggestion during the discussions was to set up local resource management committees who
could assist to provide some focus and organise the community level working days. The areas are
large, and it would be good to have representation from the differentsections to assist in
communication. In addition, these committees would have to be diversified by having youth,
women, and men, to encourage men and youth to take part as it is usually the women who take the
lead and participate.
An immediate outcome of this cross-visit was that the Ezibomvini community went back to their
area with renewed purpose and immediately started a litter clean-up campaign for their streams and
water sources. They had the additional foresight and connectionwith the Okahlamba Local
Municipality to arrange for this litter to be picked up by the municipal waste removal truck. This
activity also assisted to raise awareness within the community as a whole to ensure that community
members would refrain
from discarding their
solid waste and used
disposable nappies in
and around water
sources in the future.
Figure 8: Community littler
clean up days in different
sections of the village and
removal of this waste by the
Municipal waste removal truck
This activity is part of dissemination of the CbCCA decision support process in the broader
community and has to date consisted in working with the Adaptation Network to train NGOs such as
Sociotech Interfacing, as well as working within the WRC supported Giyani Local Scale Climate
resilience project on these aspects.
Figure 9: The Maobane, Hammanskraal community training in CCA (Sociotech) undertaken on 7th-8thAugust 2023, for 90
In the present reporting period September-December2023 training have been provided for World
Vision for their Women’s Economic Empowerment process in Sekororo Limpopo, where two CCA
trainings were conducted for a total of 75local women and the LIMA-Rural Development
Foundation’s Social employment Fund process where 180 youth across 9 sites (Zululand, Southern
KZN, Matatiele EC, Lichtenberg NW, and Sekororo, Musina and Blouberg in Limpopo) were trained as
trainers for 1000 community members engaged in food security initiatives in these regions.
These training consisted of 2 days within each village 1 day theoretical training in CCA and climate
resilient agriculture and nutrition with practical demonstrations in value adding options (such as
jams, sauces, achar and, sweet potato bites) and a second practical day of demonstrations of climate
resilient agriculture practices (such as trench beds, tower gardens, eco-circles, keyhole beads, stone
lines, liquid manures, natural pest and disease control and fruit production).
Below are a few indicative photographs.
Figure 10: LIMA-RDF Social Employment Found training of trainers in Matatiele showing natural pest and disease control,
tower gardens, and a trench bed with drip irrigation being demonstrated practically tototrainees.
By Temakholo Mathebula, Nqe Dlamini and Erna Kruger
In this section we provide contextualized case studies (both place-and issue- based) as well as
recommendations for the transformation of local food systems, based on a framework for
transformation of food systems developed from literature.
The case studies include:
ØLocal food system analysis for smallholder farmers in the Midlands region of KwaZulu- Natal
(T. Mathebula)
ØLivelihoods impacts of village savings and loan associations (N Dlamini) and
ØImproved resilience for smallholder farmers in CbCCA (E Kruger)
Numerous studies suggest that the transformation of food systems is crucial in the enhancement of
food security, livelihood creation, environmental sustainability and economic transformation. In
these unprecedented times, a holistic approach is vital in driving systematic shifts in both global and
local food systems (United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 2016). Daunting challenges
such as soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, climatic shifts and food related diseases require deep
structural reforms in food systems. As food systems are a major contributing factor in the creation of
the existing challenges, they are instrumental in finding solutions. Food system reform requires
strategic solutions and strong collaboration between all the actors involved(Global Alliance for the
Future of Food, 2021).
According to the Framework for Researching African Food Systems(May, 2021), food system
transformation is vital in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), especially SDG 2 which is
to end hunger by enhancing food security through the promotion of sustainable agricultural
Figure 11: The Food systems framework outlined through FS Net Africa Prof J. May, 2021.
In order to identify opportunities for transformation, frameworks for change provide a conceptual
structure for challenging existing paradigms and birthing new ideas and solutions. Frameworks are
tools to “understand, analyse and shift systems” and can be applied in multi-contextual ways
(Nesheim, Oria, & Yih, 2015). Therefore, a food systems framework is an important tool in assessing
and strengthening food systems as it provides an empirical structure for analysing the food system
components and identifying gaps and points of intervention(FAO, European Union, CIRAD and DSI-
NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security (CoE-FS), 2022).
A desktop review of various journal articles, research papers and presentations on food systems has
revealed that there are a number of food system frameworks for transformation. Most food system
frameworks have three defining components; external drivers as tools for change, description of the
various components of food systems and outcomes. The Global Alliance (GA) has introduced a
“Principles Framework for Food System Transformation” which is composed of seven principles:
renewability, resilience, health, equity, diversity, inclusion and interconnectedness. These principles
are the final outcome of sustainable food systems which encompass a future of biodiversity, access
to healthy food and resilience to shocks and stresses (Global Alliance for the Future of Food, 2021).
The framework works by assessing food system alignment to the aforementioned principles using a
set of predetermined criteria. The GA framework views the food system components in retrospect
and helps to identify misalignment, thus providing guidelines for future decision making. Another
framework is the “Sustainable Food Systems Transformative Framework” which is a three tiered
framework of drivers, activities an outcomes. This framework provides a more detailed breakdown
of the various food systems components and thus provides a wider scope of analysis of challenges
and opportunities for intervention. The framework helps to assess the processes and information
pathways in food systems, identify gaps and find ways to improve food system governance. This is
the main framework that will be adapted and used for this study. The third framework to be used in
this study is the “Framework for Researching African Food Systems” adapted from the
TRANSMANGO framework which provides a conceptual overview and the linkages in food systems.
This framework is useful in identifying the different levels in which food systems operate and can
transform. It is a much-detailedframework of the food system drivers and components and helps
with an in depth analysis of processes, interactions and feedback loops(Brunori, et al., 2014).
In a recent food systems profile for south Africa (FAO, European Union, CIRAD and DSI-NRF Centre
of Excellence in Food Security (CoE-FS), 2022), a number of levers to drive the transformation of the
food system to one that can provide for improved livelihoods, environmental sustainability and a
better territorial balance, have been outlined. In summary these levers are:
ØReduce the relative cost of nutrient-dense food and modify the consumer environment.
ØIncrease the range, scale, and coverage of child-centred food system interventions in the
built environment.
ØSupport the transition towards agroecological food systems.
ØLink land reform with place-based farmer support.
ØReform and enforce food system regulatory policies.
ØAdopt an integrated approach to building an inclusive food system.
ØImprove inclusive stakeholder participation and enhance engagement and
ØAdopt a two-pronged place-and issue-based approach to food system governance:
The work and research undertaken by Mahlathiniand our development partners have focused
primarily on the five levers in bold in the above list. We have worked within the 7 principles outlined
by the Global Alliance for the future of food ((Global Alliance for the Future of Food, 2021), namely
renewability, resilience, health, equity, diversity, inclusion and interconnectedness.
The approach has been to improve resilience of smallholder farmers’ livelihoods in the face of
multiple shocks and stresses. A further focus on development of local food systems and local
marketings strategies alongside microfinance products for the rural poor has been undertaken.
Mahlathini Development Foundation (MDF) has done extensive work in strengthening local food
systems in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Limpopo. The organisation’s project focus has been to
reduce vulnerability and increase resilience to external shocks such as climate change, economic
decline, food insecurity and political instability which seem to be particularly detrimental to the
poorest of the poor. Further complicating matters is the reality that smallholder farmers do not
have access to formal credit, are excluded from the mainstream economy, struggle with high levels
of unemployment, and are food insecure. The disproportionate distribution of power between men
and women also continues to be a point of major concern, although the tide is slowly turning. There
is therefore a necessity for interventions that will drastically reduce and possibly eradicate the
aforementioned challenges. Our project activities have included the introduction of sustainable
agricultural practices which encompass agro-ecologyand regenerative agriculture principles, to help
strengthen the farming systems of smallholder farmers, alongside local marketing and microfinance
and microlending options. More recently an increased focus on soil and water conservation as well
as resource conservation and management has also been included in the suite of interventions.
In efforts to better understand local food systems as well as their challenges and opportunities, the
organisation has applied the food systems approach in which a framework was used to identify the
primary external drivers, the interactions between the various components of the food system as
well as the actors involved, the outcomes as well as the impacts. This food system framework is
adapted from Sustainable Food Systems Transformative Network, The Global Alliance Network and
the TRANSMANGO Network and presented below.
Figure 12: MDF Contextualised Food Systems Framework. (Adapted from the Sustainable Food Systems Network, TRANSMANGO D2.1 Framework and the Global Alliance Food Systems
Storage and
Processing and
Formal and
Informal Markets
Biophysical and
Natural Resources
Ecosystem Services
Climate Change
Water access and
Cultural beliefs
and traditions
Gender dynamics
Social dynamics
Innovation and
Political and
economic drivers
Local and national
Land tenure
Civil society
Community level
Age range/
Energy grids
household and
and Access
Food Security and Nutrition
Socio Economic Stability
Environmental Sustainability
Livelihood Creation
Resiience and Climate Change
Social justice and Equality
IMPACTS: Renewability, resilience, health, equity, diversity, inclusion and interconnectedness,
The diagram below outlines the main food system stakeholderswho have been involved in the food
system analysis and transformation interventions led by MDF.
Figure 13: Main food system stakeholders
These stakeholders have been engaged through a range of platforms at local, regional and national
level, on both conceptual and practical implementation levels.
The three case studies below explore different aspects of food systems for smallholder communities
in South Africa.
By Erna Kruger
A programme focusing on Climate Resilient Agriculture (CRA) in mixed smallholder farming systems,
was undertaken in KwaZulu Natal and Matatiele (Eastern Cape) between 2020 and 2022. This
initiative was support by the WWF and the Nedbank Green Trust.
The two main outcomes of this projectcan be summarized as:
Food and nutrition security at household level for poor, rural homesteads with enough
farming income to sustainably maintain farming activities in the short term and
Development of social agency for community led local economic development and social
safety nets and improvement of the natural resource base.
Food System
Local and
Local informal
and local
These outcomes wereachieved by working intensively with Climate Resilient Agriculture (CRA)
learning groups in 18 villages across KwaZulu Natal (Bergville, Midlands and Southern KZN) and the
Eastern Cape (Matatiele)for 378 participants. The main foci of the project were on improved,
diversified and sustainable production in smallholder farming systems and development of local
marketing initiatives and platforms, within a framework of climate change adaptation and
improvement of social agency and local governance. Attention was given to multistakeholder
engagement at different levels of the food system.
b.Project summary
In each CRA learning group participants undertook a climate change assessment, and prioritized
adaptive measures and practicesto beundertaken by each individual in the group. CRA practices
included Conservation Agriculture (intercropping, crop rotation, inclusion of cover and fodder crops),
livestock integration (poultry micro businesses, fodder production, winter fodder supplementation
and calf rearing) and agroecological homestead vegetable production (micro tunnels, trench beds,
rainwater harvesting, mulching, grey water management, composting, mixed cropping, crop
diversification, liquid manures, natural pest and disease control and seed saving). Seasonal reviews
and joint learning activities reinforced cyclical learning and adaptation.
The CRA learning groups also formed the basis for improvement of social agency and governance for
joint discussion, analysis and collaborative action, primarily around marketing and water access, but
also in resource conservation activities. Eight (8) of the groups formed formal marketing committees
and structures for local marketing, 3 formed water committees and undertookcommunity owned
and managed water schemes in their villages, 5 set up farmers’ associations for calf rearing and
livestock management and 2 undertookresource conservation activities linked to youth
employment in their villages. For the remaining groups, collaboration wasstrengthened in these
areas, but not to the extent of initiating formal structures and initiatives.
Through expansion and intensification of production and productivity, participating smallholders
increased both household food availability and incomes. The total value of production averaged
around R3 060/ per household per month. This equates to a 68% increase in production and incomes
as a result of theintervention. Around 80% of participants still produce for household consumption
first and sale of surplus. This has meant that farmgate sales and local marketing stalls are the most
appropriate marketingstrategies, as these can provide flexibility for sale of various quantities and
types of produce. Participants increased their crop diversity by roughly 10 crops per participant and
each also included around 10 new CRA practices into their farming system.
Membership of the Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA) increased to 510 participants,
including the initiation of 6 new VSLAs and one Bulk Loan Fund association. The overall annual value
of these VSLAs was roughly R 1117420, withan individualised value of around R3342 per annum.
Participants used these savings and small loans for household consumption smoothing, buying of
household items, education, production inputs and small businesses. These VSLAs provide a very
strong element of financial sustainability to participants in a highly vulnerable environment.
c.Monitoring and Evaluation
A central concern for this intervention was develop coherent processes for monitoring and
evaluating improvement in livelihoods and incomes as well as improved climate resilience for
participants. We wanted to be able to clearly show the impact of these interventions on participants’
livelihoods and on their local food systems.
A methodology for assessing changes (positive or negative) for a suite of bespoke resilience
indicators was used. This process as initially piloted in a WRC supported research process entitled
Climate change adaptation for smallholder farmer in South Africa: A decision support guide“(WRC
report no: IT/841/1/20) (Kruger, 2021). An integral component of the methodology is the resilience
snapshots- an in-depth individual analysis of changes in their food system related to climate
resilience. These snapshots are designed to provide a time-based analysis of changes in resilience as
well as a process to compare the resilience impact of interventions across different areas and
agroecological zones.
Theimpact survey was conducted with around 40% of participants form each of the areas (Bergville,
Midlands, SKZN and EC_Matatiele),66 in total, using the resilience snapshot methodology, process
and questionnaire developed for this purpose. Indicators for these snapshots were carefully
developed and pre-tested, to show changes and impact in a range of resilience related criteria.
Below the summary tables for the 2 areas (KZN and EC) are presented, with short discussions.
KwaZulu Natal
In KZN participants were interviewed in the Bergville :(n=21), Midlands (n=15) and SKZN (n=9) sites,
proportionally according to the number of participants in each site. Each site is in a significantly
different agroecological region and in terms of proximity to large urban centres, which are the two
main factors for differences in production and productivity between these sites. Local production
habits also play a part, as does attitudes towards change and new ideas. The table below
summarizes the changes across the three sites.
Table 3 Climate resilience snapshots for 45 participants from KZN: November2022
Average increase
SKZN (n=9)
Increase in size of
farming activities
(Cropping areas
measured, no of
fruit trees and no
of livestock
93m² - 234m²
Gardening: 1
217m² -
1664m² (36%)
25m² - 100m²
Sizes of gardens have increased, substantially in Bergville and
SKZN where many participants were not gardening before. In
the Midlands most participants already have reasonably sized
Field cropping:
2 460m² -6
175m² (251%)
Field cropping:
5 163m² -6
270m² (21%)
Field cropping:
1 666m² -1
044m² (-62)
Dryland cropping has increased substantially since introduction
of CA and includes fodder production and cover crops in
Bergville. Field sizes range from 500-28 0000m². Field cropping
has however decreased in SKZN, due to adverse weather
conditions and economic pressures and have increased only
slightly in the Midlands where fields are already well established
and reasonably large
Fruit and
other trees:1-
Fruit and
other trees: -
Fruit and
other trees: -
Some farmers bought a few more fruit trees. Around 40% of
households do not have any trees in their yards.
Cattle: 173-
117 (-33%)
Livestock: >22
cipant (46%)
Livestock: >5
ant (5%)
More poultry kept (broilers and layers) for marketing. Most
families' livestock have decreased substantially due to theft, the
recent floods and household use.
Increased farming
activities (Count of
cropping, livestock
A number of participants have re-initiated certain farming
activities: gardening and/or field cropping activities as well as
poultry production (broilers/eggs).
Increased season
(continuity of
farming activities
throughout the
For field cropping - autumn and winter options and gardening
throughout the year. This is a measure for improved continuity
and production.
Increased crop
diversity (Count of
number of crops
and CRA practices
for each farmer)
Crops: 24 new
crops ~ 7 per
Crops: 20 new
crops ~ 9 per
Crops: 19 new
crops ~ 6 per
Number of new cropsfor the area,planted per farmer: Crops
include coriander, basil, fennel, rosemary, lettuce, red lettuce,
mustard spinach, kale, carrots, beetroot, Chinese cabbage,
spring onions, leeks, onions, cabbage, red cabbage, butternuts,
sorghum, sunflower, Sun hemp, Lab-lab, Lespedeza, tall fescue,
winter cover crops, turnips, beans and cowpeas.
Practices: 24
new practices
(Ave 11 per
Practices: 21
new practices
(Ave 10 per
Practices: 15
new practices
(Ave 8 per
Number of CRA practices implemented per farmer: These
include mulching, trench beds, liquid manure, raised beds,
mixed cropping, inter-cropping, crop rotation, tunnels, drip kits,
eco-circles, greywater use and management, Conservation
Agriculture, cover crops, inclusion of legumes, pruning of fruit
trees, picking up dropped fruit, pest and disease control, feeding
livestock on crops and stover, cutting and baling, fodder
supplementation, health and sanitation for poultry, brooding,
JoJo tanks and RWH drums.
(increased yield)
Gardening >
Gardening >
410 kg
Gardening >
17 kg
Increase in Kgs of vegetables produced per season: Based on
increase in yields, mainly from tunnels and trench beds for
gardening, for a range of vegetables and herbs.
Field cropping:
> 450kg
Field cropping:
> 888 kg
Field cropping:
> 181 kg
Increase in Kgs of field crops produced per season:Relates to
switching to CA and increase in field size, for a range of field
crops - mainly maize, beans and potatoes
Livestock: >15
Livestock: >21
Increasein number of livestock:For Bergville the number
relates to cattle, For Midlands both layers and broilers and for
SKZN to layers.
Increased water
use efficiency
Access, RWH, water holding capacity and irrigation efficiency
rated. Scale:0= same or worse than before; 1= somewhat better
than before, 2= much better than before x 4 criteria (values of 0
to 8):The ratings indicate good improvements in RWH, water
holding and irrigation efficiency and some improvement in
Increased income
r Range:
R240- R2 000
r Range:
R800-R7 320
r Rang:
R200- R1 500
Increase in average monthly income (Rands): This is primarily
through local marketing and small businesses. A number of
participants have lost employment and grant incomes and
replaced these with farming. Around 10% of participants have
not improved their incomes
household food
Food produced (overall Kgs per week) and consumed in the
household: For both Bergville and the Midlands these figures
indicate food secure participants, while for SKZN the self-
produced food is roughly 30% of that required for a household
Dryland crops
Dryland crops
Dryland crops
potatoes); 17
Increased food
food types/2x
per week
Average: 5
food types/ 3x
per week
Average: 3
food types/ 2x
per week
No of food types/ no of times/week:This is a measure of
improved dietary diversity and indicates both improved access
and changes in food habits. This largest diversity is found for the
more peri-urban communities in the Midlands
livelihood diversity
Average increase in livelihood sources:Social grants,
remittances, farming incomes, small business income,
employment. Increase in no of livelihoods options used.
Primarily from farming and small business income
Increased savings
Average increase in savings (Rands): Savings used for food,
household education and production. In Bergville the increase is
within existing savings groups and for Midlands and SKZN new
groups have been established
Increased social
Average number of local organisations farmers belong to:
Participants generally belong to church groups and stokvels.
New group collaborations include learning groups, farmers'
associations, village savings and loan associations, marketing
committees, farmer centres, work teams and local water
informed decision
Average number of sources of information: Own experience,
local facilitators, other farmers/community members,
facilitators, extension officers, radio, extension officers.
Positive mindsets
A qualitative rating of wellbeing for each participant:
SCALE:0=less positive about the future; 1=the same; 2=more
positive about the future; 3=much more positive. More to
much more positive about the future: Much improved
household food security and food availability.
In Bergvilleparticipants doubled the sizes of their gardens and field cropping areas and increased
poultry and fruit production. Livestock production decreased by around 33%, mainly due to
substantially increased theft in the area, but also due to use for Lobola, ceremonies and household
consumption. Twenty-four (24) crops have been introduced and are being grown in the area, as well
as 24 CRA practices. Productivity has increased and farmers are producing on average 73kg more of
vegetables per season andaround 450kg of field crops more. Their food security has been improved
and their incomeshave increasedby an average of R741/month, from farmgate and market stall
sales. Savings have increased by R152/month per participant. Participants are now involved in at
least 3 more social organisations including the learning groups, savings groups, farmers associations
and water and marketing committees. They have improved their decision making, now working with
local facilitators, DALRRD extension officers, and MDF staff. In summary their mindsets and outlook
on their futures are much more positive, with much improved household food security and food
Figure 14:Above clockwise from left: A mixed crop tunnel (Nelisiwe Msele), protected spring and poultry house for broilers,
in Stulwane, Bergville.
Figure 15: CRA marketing group with the market stall in Bergville in early August 2022, showing a good range of the crops
they are now selling.
In the Midlandsparticipants have increased their gardens and fields by around 30%, as many were
already active farmers. This area is close to large urban centres and has a forgiving climate that can
accommodate both winter and summer crop production. Those keeping poultry have increased their
flock sizes by around 22 birds per participant. A sizeable group of farmers became involved in calf
rearing (around 30 members), where1week old calves are reared to yearlings before being sold
locally. Twenty (20) crops have been introduced and are being grown in the area, as well as 21 CRA
practices. Productivity has increased and farmers are producing on average 410kg more of
vegetablesper season and around 888kg of field crops more. Their food security has been improved
and their incomes by an average of R3 641/month, from farmgate and market stall sales. Savings
have increased by R354/month per participant. Participants are now involved in at least 3 more
social organisations including the learning groups, savings groups, farmers associations, calf rearing
groups and marketing committees. They have improved their decision making, now working with
local facilitators, DALRRD extension officers, and MDF staff. In summary their mindsets and outlook
on their futures are much more positive, with much improved household food security and food
Here, in addition to the snapshots, an assessment of changes in practises and impact of these on
their farming was undertaken with a number of the participant smallholders. The advantages of a
transition to a more agroecological system are evident. Below afew examples are provided.
Table 4: Assessment of past and present farming practices for Bongiwe Shezi, Mayizekanye: November2022
Bongiwe Shezi - Mayizekanye
Past Issue
Past practice
Present practice
Bare soil (no
soil cover)
resulting in
soil erosion
Ploughing with
a tractor
Planting cover crops,
minimal tillage, mulching
Improved soil health
and prevention of soil
erosion keeping the
Bare soil can have high acidity
and remaining soil lacks
nutrients and she would be
required to use fertiliser.
Use of
Planting herbs and using
nonharmful chemicals
Soil health improved
Nature based practices are
cheaper and much healthier for
people and the environment
Poor quality
of crops
Application of
Crop rotation,
intercropping, weeding,
minimal tillage
Soil health and fertility
improvedresulting in
healthy plants
Bongiwe also provided a self-assessment of her level of improvement for the five fingers principles
of agroecological improvement in her farming. In the small table below, she has indicated which
practices she has included under each of the conservation practices.Shehas not focused on natural
resource management or indigenous plants. Bongiwe was able to assess her level of learning and
implementation coherently and give an indication of the impact of these changes on her farming
Table 5: Bongiwe’s assessment of implementation of the 5 conservation principles in her farming system.
Five fingers conservation
Detailed description of what is there - list practices
Water management
Storing water (RWH), soil cover to prevent soil erosion, channelling
water into the field, run-off management
Control of soil movement
Minimal tillage, maintains soil cover, use of winter and summer
cover crops, mulching, use of kraal manure
Soil health
Soil testing, soil fertility (manure and compost), cover cropping,
reduced soil erosion
Improved crop
Herbicide use, intercropping, mulching, ridging, spraying
Improved livestock
Vaccination, grower mash for the broilers
Looking after indigenous
Mr Philani Ngcobo from Ozwathinihas experimented with a range of practices, including some new
ideas introduced through UKZN and DALRRD. He rated each of his most successful CRA practices
against a number of criteria that he considered importantincluding for example, soil improvement,
efficient water use, increased production, improved income and improved ability to adapt to
variable weather conditions. He rated the impact of these practices as follows.
Table 6: Philani’s assessment of the impact of introducing CRA practices on a number of different sustainability criteria.
Name of
Pest and
Cost and
Scale used:
than normal
0=no change,
This exercise helped us to understand the impact of introducing specific CRA practices on the
farmer’s food system. All the practices had a very positive impact on his resilience (adaptation) as
well as his livelihood.
Figure 16: Left: The local market stall set up at the Bamshela Taxi rank for the Midlands marketing group. Note the
packaged, eggs, beans and potatoes, alongside cabbages, Chinese cabbage, carrots and spinach. This group manages their
own market process, collection, set up and sales. Right: An example of an online and printed poster produced for the veggie
combos sold through social media in Pietermaritzburg.
Figure 17: Above Left: Ntombizodwa Hlope’s layers and calves being hand reared by Martina Xulu (Ozwathini May 2022)
In Southern KZN, improvement in productivity has been hampered by relative isolation of the
villages, due to broken hilly topography of the area, lack of access to urban centres and high climate
variability. Many participants have started gardening again, albeit on small patches between 25-
100m2, their field cropping areas have contracted by 62%, due to repeated weather-related crop
losses and deteriorating soils and increase in livestock has been limited to an increase in the number
of layers (~5 per participant farmer). They have suffered losses in livestock numbers (cattle and
goats) due to theft and flooding. Nineteen (19) crops have been introduced and are being grown in
the area, as well as 15 CRA practices. These are lower than in the other two KZN sites and relates to
a higher reticence to change in this area. Productivity has increased, and farmers are producing on
average 17kg more of vegetables per season and around 181kg of field crops more. Again, thisis
lower than the other two sites and provides for a 30% increase in food security here, compared to
around 90%in the other two regions in KZN.Incomes have increased by an average of R1 021/
month, primarily from farmgate sales. It has not been possibleto establish joint local marketing
actions in this region. Savings have increased by R280/month per participant. Participants only have
the CRA learning groups as a new organisational structure in these villages. Despite these lower
levels of success in this site, participants’ mindsets and outlook on their futures are much more
positive, with much improved household food security and food availability.
Figure 18: Above Left : Layers’ unit for Mr Mandal Mkhize in Ngongonini and Above Right: Letta Ngubo’s CA field with
summer cover crops and maize in Spring Valley, SKZN (February 2022)
Eastern Cape-Matatiele
Villages in this region are sprawled along the escarpment leading up into Lesotho and weather
conditions are quite extreme at the best of times. Winters are cold with severe frost and sometimes
snow. Summers are cool to hot,and rainfall is unreliable, but often comes in the form of severe
storms that include hail. In addition, soils in the region are poor with low levels of organic matter,
high levels of sand and high levels of compaction. Severe imitations in access to water persist in the
area and water for irrigation is virtually entirely lacking.
Although there are vast areas of abandoned fields, intervening in dryland cropping would need a
very focused and intensive effort. Most smallholders in the area are a lot more focused on
household food production including vegetables, fruit and small livestock and thus much of the focus
for this project was there.
Figure 19: Above Left: A CA plot in Nkau, with reasonably typical patchy growth. Initial improvement through CA in the1st
season, was not enough to convince participants to continue. Above Right: The really hard and compacted soil, low in
organic matter, proved difficult to dig out for trench beds in a number of the households.
Figure 20: Above Left and Right; Household gardens in Nkau, Matatiele, showing extensive production of kale and rape,
with more intensive production of greens in a tunnel with drip kits and a tower garden. Participants appreciate the value of
both practices to produce better quality crops under extreme weather conditions, especially frost in winter.
In the Eastern Cape, 21 participants across three villages (Nkau, Rashule and Nchodu) were
interviewed using the resilience snapshot methodology to ascertain progress and changes. The
results are summarized in the table below.
Table 7: Resilience snapshots for 21 participants from the Eastern Cape. November 2022
Resilience indicators
Increase for Matatiele(n=21)
August 2022
Increase in size of
farming activities
(Cropping areas
measured, no of fruit
trees and no of
livestock assessed)
Gardening: 363m² - 841m²
Sizes of garden have doubled on average, range from around 35-2000m²
Field cropping: ~3000m²
Field cropping areas have not expanded
Fruit and other trees:
No new fruit trees in implementation period
Livestock: 272-298 (8%)
More poultrykept (broilers and layers) for marketing. Some however lost
substantial number of birds due to ill health and cold.
Increased farming
Yes (1 on ave)
A number of participants have re-initiated gardening and/or field cropping
activities as well as poultry production (broilers/eggs)
Increased season
For field cropping - autumn and winter options and gardening throughout
the year.
Increased crop
Crops: 31 new crops (ave 11
per participant)
New crops include: Brinjal, parsley, coriander, leeks, thyme, lettuce,
beetroot, green pepper, chilies, basil, green beans, rape kale, rosemary,
carrots, Chinese cabbage, mustard spinach, spring onions, tomatoes,
rosemary, fennel , broccoli, turnips ,mustard spinach, kale, Sun hemp,
lucerne, fodder rye, peas, sunflower , cowpeas
Practices: 24 new practices
(ave 10 per participant)
Practices include; Mulching, trench beds, tower gardens liquid manure,
raised beds, furrows and ridges, mixed cropping, inter-cropping, crop
rotation, tunnels, drip kits, eco-circles, greywater use and management,
Conservation Agriculture, cover crops, inclusion of legumes, pruning of fruit
trees, picking up dropped fruit, pest and disease control, feeding livestock
on crops and stover, health and sanitation for poultry, brooding, JoJo
tanks, RWH drums
Based on increase in yields (mainly from tunnels and trench beds for
gardening) - Overall Kgs of a range of vegetables and herbs produced in a
Field cropping: > -
CA for field cropping - Overall kgs of a range of field crops - mainly maize,
beans, cowpeas
Increased water use
Average: 6
Access, RWH, water holding capacity and irrigation efficiency rated.
Scale:0= same or worse than before; 1= somewhat better than before, 2=
much better than before x 4 criteria (values of 0 to 8)
Increased income
Range; R80-R3440
Based on average monthly incomes, mostly though marketing of produce
locally and through the organic marketing system
Vegetables; 23kg/week
Food produced (overall Kgs per week) and consumed in the household
Increased household
food provisioning
Dryland crops (maize,
legumes, sweet potatoes);
Increased food
Average:4 food types/3x per
No of food types/ no of times/week
Increased livelihood
diversity options
Average: 1
Social grants, remittances, farming incomes, small business income,
employment. Increase in no of livelihoods options used. Primarily from
farming and small business income
Increased savings
Average: R322/month/farmer
Average increase in savings (Rands) Savings used for food, household
education and production
Increased social
agency (collaborative
Participants generally belong to church groups and stokvels. New group
collaborations include Learning groups, farmers' associations, village
savings and loan associations, marketing committees.
Increased informed
decision making
Own experience, experimentation local facilitators, other
farmers/community members, facilitators, radio.
Positive mindsets
SCALE:0=less positive about the future; 1=the same; 2=more positive about
the future; 3=much more positive. More to much more positive about the
future: Much improved household food security and food availability.
In Matatieleparticipants doubled the sizes of their gardens, while field cropping and fruit
production has not changed much. Livestock production, mainly poultry (layers and broilers)
increased marginally by 8%, which was a combination of substantial increases for a few participants
but decreases for most participants who found it impossible to manage small flocks of 10-20 birds
profitably, given the sharp rise in transport and feed costs. Thirty-one (31) crops have been
introduced and are being grown in the area, as well as 24 CRA practices. In this area participants
were enthusiastic about trying out cropsnew to the area and to them, more specifically in their
vegetable gardens and have now included a number of crops for localized sales including for
example mustard spinach, Chinese cabbage and leeks. Productivity has increased and farmers are
producing on average 116kg more of vegetables per season, indicating the expansion of production
for both consumption and sale. Field cropping has reduced by around 220kg per participant this
season, indicating a very bad dryland cropping season in the area. Their food security has been
improved and their incomes by an average of R1 031/month/ participant, primarily from farmgate
sales. Savings have increased by R3222/month per participant. Participants are now involved in at
least 3 more social organisations including the learning groups, savings groups, and marketing
groups. They have improved their decision making, now working with local facilitators, and MDF
staff. In summary their mindsets and outlook on their futures are more positive, with improved
household food security and food availability.
Case Study : Matankiso Rajoale from Rashule (Matatiele)
Matankiso Rajoale is a 53-year-old smallholder farmer from Rhashule, who farms with her husband.
They have 2 children, 1 foster child and 4 grandchildren. She started farming in 2005 with the
intention of making an income to help her husband to take care of their family as he could only find
temporary jobs. The challenge was water and not knowing how to farm. She was planting common
vegetables in the area like cabbage, turnips and rape. She generally planted these vegetables in
winter and potatoes in summer. She was struggling with water and low yields. She also started a
small tuck shop.
She joined the CRA learning group in Rashule in 2020 and feels that she has benefited greatly:
ØShe has introduced new crops that do well
and are popular in the area. Examples are
Mustard spinach, carrots and green beans
Sales from these alone have come to
around R1000/month.
ØIntroduction of trenches, shallow trenches
and eco-circles have assisted her in
improving her soils and increasing water
holding in her garden and beds.
Figure 21: Matankiso Rajoale from Rashule in Matatiele,
standing in a bed planted to mustard spinach. In the
foreground is a bed of peas.
ØThe tunnel provides for very intensive
production of high yielding, high quality
ØShe has learnt about the need to buy
specific potato seed and different varieties
that do well in different seasons and also in planting and managing them better. Yields have
increased dramatically, and she also makes around R1000 from sales of potatoes.
ØOn average she now makes around R2000 from her garden every month.
Figure 22: Above Left: Matankiso uses her tunnel primarily for seedling production and Above right: A view of her garden
beds including cabbages, turnips, kale and rape.
Matankiso also started having an interest in livestock for both business and integration with her crop
farming, mostly to use kraal manure to add to the soil and making liquid manure to use for soil
fertility and pest control. She started with 2 sheep and 2 cattle and now has 41 sheep and 15 cattle.
She sells them locally, at between R1500 to R1800 per sheep. Cattle are sold at the auctions. At the
latest auction she attended, she sold 4 cows for R28000. Locally she sells a cow at R7500. She uses
the money to buy feed and medicine for her livestock and to assist with household needs or farming
inputs. The challenges she has faced with livestock is getting medicine, and feed and theft in their
village. She also started poultry farming in 2020, through the help of the learning group and sells
eggs locally at R55 for a tray of 30 eggs. Originally, she was the only person selling eggs in the village
and had a buyer who took the eggs to town, so she was doing well. Now, she has a competitor and
selling is going quite slowly. She feels that due to COVID people in the village have less money to
spend on food. In addition, feed prices in Matatiele are much higher than the feed she bought, and
which was transported by MDF all the way from Pietermaritzburg, almost R150/bag. If she has to
transport her own feed, it costs and extra R200 per trip. It reduces her profit margin considerably.
Figure 23: Above Left: Matankiso’s layers house and Above right: Her kraal for her sheep.
She is very grateful for the support from SaveAct and Mahlathini, as they have helped her improve
her farming and livelihood considerably.
In summary, these resilience snapshots provide a deep understanding of the resilience impact of the
intervention on productivity, diversity, livelihoods, social agency and individual perception. They
provide a very clear picture of the benefits for smallholders to work in learning groups introduce
new crops and CRA practices, engage in joint local marketing activities and in being involved in local
village savings and loan associations. They also show the development of social agency of individuals
and groups in the areas and their ability to effect improved local governance through initiation and
implementation of different committees and focus areas such as livestock, marketing, and water
They also show the limits of what can be achieved through a locality focus as some of the broader
food system constraints such as lack of effective, efficient and diversified input supply systems can
not be impacted on this level. Despite this, food security and livelihoods improvements have been
significant for the participants in this programme.
The resilience snapshot methodology has worked well to highlight changes and improvements, but
still needs a better conceptual framework within which to anchor the indicators, as well as a rigours
review of the indicators themselves to provide a more standardised set of indicators that are more
broadly applicable.
d.Local incomes and marketing
This aspect of the programme was explored through a range of processes, including individual
interviews and focus group discussions, both in village-based learning groups and in clusters of
learning groups across areas.
A few general observations in terms of the marketing system for smallholders include:
Farmers produce primarily for food and try to derive an income from sale of surplus (80% of
A small proportion of farmers produce specifically for sale (1-5%)
The ability to expand their productive areas is limited and only a small proportion of farmers
have this capacity (10-15%). Intensification and improved productivity in existing farming
enterprises provides for an immediate significant improvement but limits the overall income
potential of smallholder farming.
Available marketing avenues for smallholders include:
Farmgate (within villages); this is the most common marketing avenue but has small local
potential with low income ceilings.
Local market stalls (combined across villages); much larger range of products and income
potential, with a focuson labelling, branding, pricing, value adding and processing.
Bakkie traders, stores in local towns (individuals and groups within villages); generally,
commodity focused, and farmers are price takers good for larger quantities butdoes not
have a competitive advantage.
Sale to local retailers and supermarkets (individuals); requires transport, intermittent, price
takers, little stability, competitive overall potentialislow.
Local market stalls
This strategy of aggregating all produce across a selection of villages and selling monthly at a market
stall based at a central point such as a grant pay point or taxi rank, has been the main intervention
for this project. It has included working with participants on pricing, produce quality, labelling and
branding of produce and the stall. It appears to be the most appropriate strategy at present, that can
accommodate for small quantities of a range of products as well as inconsistency of supply. It also
ensures that farmers can charge reasonable prices for their produce.
The tablebelow provides a running total of sales from the market stalls between April 2021 and
August 2022, for the two areas where these stalls have been successfully set up: Bergville and
Ozwathini (Midlands).
Table 8: Sales records for local market stalls in Bergville and Ozwathini: April 2021-August 2022
Summary of market incomes for Market stalls: April 2021-August 2022
No farmers
R2 419,00
VEGETABLES: Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage,
kale, Chinesecabbage, mustard spinach,
leeks, onions, lettuce, carrots, beetroot, green
peppers, chilies, brinjals, green maize, green
beans, tomatoes,
HERBS: coriander, parsley, fennel,
FIELD CROPS: Maize, dry beans, sweet
potatoes, amadumbe, pumpkins, butternut
FRUIT: Bananas, avocadoes, nartjies, lemons
MEAT: Pork, broilers, chicken pieces, eggs
PROCESSED FOOD: Bottled chilies, mealie
bread vetkoek
OTHER: incema, seed potatoes, pinafores,
grass brooms , mats, beads, art work
Combo packs - via social media in
Pietermaritbrug: Potatoes, carrots, eggs,
chillies, onions, cabbage (half and chopped),
R1 580,00
R5 072,00
Emmaus, Stulwane
R3 415,00
Emmaus, Stulwane
R2 379,00
R3 745,00
Bergville market
R11 527,50
Bamshela - Ozwathini
R3 866,00
Bamshela - Ozwathini
R5 448,00
Bamshela - Ozwathini
R3 354,00
Bamshela - Ozwathini
R2 964,00
Bamshela - Ozwathini
R19 800,00
Sale to shops in Bergville:
Boxer and Saverite
R1 310,00
UEDA Emmaus Hall
R2 964,00
Bamshela - Ozwathini
green beans, beetroot, avocado, brinjals,
green peppers, chopped mixed veg.
Ave income per participant: R382 per market
day (R100-R1,600)
R1 400,00
Ozwathini- social media
R2 610,00
Bamshela - Ozwathini
R3 010,00
Bamshela - Ozwathini
Bamshela - Ozwathini
R2 565,00
Bamshela - Ozwathini
R4 782,00
Bamshela - Ozwathini
R2 500,00
Bergville town market stall
Bergville town market stall
with FSG farmers
INCOME: ~ R6 901/month
Figure 24: :Images of the latest markets in Bergville and Ozwathini: August 2022. Note the range of products, including dry
beans as well as unusual vegetables such as Chinese cabbage, kale and cauliflower.
For both marketing groups, the participants now manage the whole process of marketing
independently, and MDF only supports on rare occasions when transport shortages are unavoidable.
They also keep their own records and provide copies for MDF for reportingpurposes. Farmers have
learnt which produce has high demand at the market stall and can now estimate the quantities
needed for each market reasonably accurately. They still sell out, however, but no longer have large
quantities of unsold produce to take home again. They have also built a reputation among buyers, as
they have been careful to be there regularly. They provide social support to each other and if
individuals have family emergencies, others in the group will take their produce to the market and
do the sales for them.
Preparation for market days entails quite a lot of planning and logistics as groups need to come
together to list their produce availability and quantities, prepare produce and price tags, arrange
transport, their market stall equipment and who will be selling on the day. They also manage the
record keeping of sales and distribution of monies between farmers involved. For Ozwathini, as they
have decided to sell for 3 consecutive days each month, they have arranged for storage space in
Bamshela, close to where they have their stall. For this group a social media platform for sale of
produce to a number of individual buyers in Pietermaritzburg has also been set up. This platform
(WhatsApp and Facebook) is managed by the MDF facilitators, as is transport and delivery.
There are some challenges in the process:
The number of farmers that participate in the market has decreased, compared to when they all
started. This has a knock-on effect on the produce (volumes and varieties) available to sell.
Some of the commodities that farmers produce, are the same i.e. cabbages, spinach, eggs. The
impact is the creation of competition among them.
Some farmers continue to prioritize buyer-seller relationships developed locally and as a result
bring smaller volumes of produce to the market. This is a cautious decision made as the market
is a “once-in-a-month-event”.
Farmers are not familiar with using social media platforms, especially to advertise and sell their
produce. Despite them taking ownership of the market in terms of planning, coordinating and
execution, they are still largely dependent on MDF staff to support with online advertising.
The highlights of these market stalls include:
Farmers are managing to plan their production to coincide with the once monthly marketing
process and have managed to have a range of high-quality crops available.
Sales have been picking up again, after the unrest a year ago and is now becoming a “real
income” for them
Farmers have added meat (pork and chicken) and processed (bottled chilies, mealie bread)
products to the market which attracts more costumers.
Every farmer that participates in the market makes some money.
In conclusion, around a year after the initiation of the markets, they show a level of consistency that
is sustainable, despite irregularities insales, volumes, varieties and availability of commodities.
Farmerscontinue to learn from the process how to adapt to changes as and when it they arise.
Written by Temakholo Mathebula
a.Understanding Local Food Systems: Ozwathini
Ozwathini is a rural communal tenure community situated in the Midlands of KwaZulu Natal under
the Leadership of Inkosi NZ Mthuli. The area falls under two municipalities: uMshwathi (under
uMgungundlovu District) and Indwedwe, (under iLembe District). It is characterized by small farming
communities in which various commodities are grown including maize, beans, potatoes, amadumbe
(taro), sweet potatoes, sugar cane and vegetables. Farming activities also include livestock in the
form of cattle, goats, pigs, poultry, and rabbits. The age groups range between 40 and 80 years old.
The majority of the organised farming groups are comprised of women.
Environmental Factors
The area is sub-tropical with high rainfall and misty conditions in summer and some frost in winter,
and it is a sourveld area. Ozwathini is also characterised by deep well drained soils with high fertility.
Agriculture is primarily rainfed. Most of the households have running water, which is mainly used for
household needs and on occasion, watering of vegetable crops. The area has been severely
impacted by climate change which has led to a perpetual decline in maize yields and income over
the years. Heavy rainfalls, soil degradation and pest outbreaks have also caused crop damage
especially on beans and vegetables which also adversely affected income. The farmers grow food for
the informal market, namely their neighbours, bakkie traders and for a short period, school feeding
Institutional Arrangements
Smallholder farmers are organised in both formal and informal groups. There is a farmers’
association which is a formal structure, where representatives from each village meet with the local
Agricultural Advisor once a month to discuss progress of existingactivities and plan for upcoming
ones. In addition, informal climate resilient agriculture (CRA) learning groups, under the auspices of
Mahlathini Development Foundation have been set up in 9 of the villages in the area. These have
given rise to the marketing group, savings groups as well as the calf rearing group. Farmers in
Ozwathini receive support both from government and civil society organizations. The diagram
below outlines the methodological understanding of the inter relationships of these groups.
Figure 25: The model for relationship building and development of social agency around the climate resilient agriculture
learning groups (MDF, 2022)
Mahlathini Development Foundation(MDF) started working in the area in 2018 and set up a
conservation agriculture (CA) learning group, which has since grown to include climate resilient
agriculture, micro finance, livestock, and marketing.
The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD):They have a formal structure called
the Mathulini farmers ‘association which was set up by the local extension officer. Research
institutions which have done work in the area include the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the
Durban University of Technology.
uMgibe Farming Organics, a private company which seeks to collaborate with smallholder farmers in
supplying large retailers with organically certified produce.
The uMshwathi Local Municipalityis currently running a program of building market stalls in the
small towns of Wartburg, Dalton and Bhamshela and issuing licenses to farmers so they can sell their
produce at these hubs.
CCA impact
strategies and
and evalu.on
Wa rd commi7ees
Local Municipality
clusters of LGs
Associa/ons and
Local Infrastructure
It is noteworthy that Ozwathini is one of the developing communities and is strategically placed
between two major cities, mainly Durban and Pietermaritzburg. There is one main tar road going to
Tongaat which passes through the communities. Most of the villages apart from Appelsboch still
have gravel roads. Appelsbocsh has a government hospital which also services Swayimane and
surrounding communities. Also situated in Appelsbosch is the Coastal FET college. The existence of
the hospital and college has opened a platform for vendors to set up selling stalls in the area. The
area also has an art gallery, hardware store, clothing store, supermarkets and a tavern which have all
attracted economic activity to the area. The local town in Ozwathini is called Bhamshela, which is
closer to the communities situated in Indwedwe. Boxer Supermarket is the main supermarket in the
town. There are several foreign owned shops and scores of local street vendors across the town.
Livelihood Activities
Farming is practised primarily for income generation and for household consumption. Aside from
farming, the communities also depend on government grants and remittances to support their
families. Some have small informal businesses such as spaza shops and others are retired. Within
these farming groups are members who also work in ward committees and play a substantial role in
addressing social issues pertaining to health and food security.
Farming plays a pivotal part in household food security in the area. Farmers employ various farming
activities to support their food security needs. In recent years they have incorporated improved
farming practices such as intercropping, crop rotation and minimum soil disturbance to slow down
erosion and improve yields, in their farming systems. They also apply organic farming practices in
their gardens to help minimize reliance on external inputs and have increased crop diversity in their
food gardens to include herbs and new unfamiliar vegetable types. In terms of livestock, as
mentioned above, the farmers farm mainly cattle, goats, and poultry. The cattle are communally
grazed; however the hand raised calves are provided with artificial milk and later arefed maize
stover and cover crops such as sunflower, sorghum, millet, black oats, fodder rye and fodder radish
amongst others. In terms of poultry, they have layers and broilers as well as Boschvelders which is a
multipurpose breed. Poultry provides a source of protein in the form of meat and eggs and is also a
very useful source of income. Some of the farmers sell inputs such as seeds, seedlings, and
herbicides to supplement their household income. Pigs are slaughtered and sold locally; some
farmers have brought pork to sell at the market which often sells out.
Market Access
Market access remains a serious constraint for smallholder farmers in the area. One of the glaring
realities of the rural farming sector is the exclusion of smallholder farmers from competitive
markets. This is largely due to inconsistent yields, poor quality produce, lack of access to relevant
knowledge, poor technology development and inherent risks stemming from a broken past of
segregation and economic exclusion. These challenges are further complicated by the ever-
increasing threat of climate change. In efforts to alleviate some of the effects of climate change on
rural livelihoods, there are several interventions introduced by MDF which include conservation
agriculture, climate resilient agriculture, micro-finance management, logistical support, learning
platforms and multistakeholder engagement.
Through the assistance of Mahlathini Development Foundation (MDF), farmers from the learning
groups set up a monthly market in Bhamshela which has been in operation for more than 2 years.
The market lasts two to three days each month depending on produce availability and level of
demand. Mahlathini also supports two savings groups in the area which meet monthly. These groups
serve as ‘money banks’ and as a source of small credit for business purposes.
b.Understanding Local Food Systems: Swayimane
Swayimane is situated in the heart of uMshwathi Local Municipality, under the leadership of iNkosi
Gcumisa. It is made up of many small farming communities, and like Ozwathini, farming activities
include field cropping and livestock production and there are community networks such as savings
groups. Communities working with Mahlathini include Mayizekanye, Gobizembe and Ndlvaveleni.
MDF has also started meetings and consultations with uMbhava community. The majority of the
farmers working with MDF are women,between the ages of 35 and 85 years old.
Environmental Factors
The communities farm on communal land using plots in and around their homesteads as well as
separate plots in the wider community, which are either family owned or leased from their owners.
Similar to Ozwathini, Swayimaneis also a subtropical area with high rainfall, and periodic dry spells.
As with most smallholder farmers on the periphery of the agricultural food chain, climate change has
dealt a severe blow to the lesser organised and poorly resourced farmers. The climatic conditions in
the Midlands arecharacterised by localized flooding, heavy hailstorms, temperature fluctuations and
exacerbated pest and disease outbreaks. Field cropping is rainfed due to lack of water and water
infrastructure. Although most of the soils are deep and well drained with reasonable fertility, years
of mechanical ploughing and chemical application have resulted in reduced fertility and poor soil
structure in some homesteads. Due to illegal burning of pastures, as well as an incoherent program
for removing alien invasive plants, most of the local veld has become severely degraded. There has
been heavy encroachment of lantana, bug weed, peanut butter acacia as well as wattle in some
parts of Swayimanewhich have adversely affected local water resources and in some cases have led
to livestock mortalities.
Local Livelihoods
Unemployment levels are extremely high in Swayimane, especially amongst the youth. Further to
that, the area also has a high percentage of “the missing middle”, which are people who do not
qualify to receive a social grant or pension, but are also unemployed. Farming is the primary source
of food and income. The area has a large number of sugar cane farmers who supply the local mill.
Others grow SC701 maize and sell to local traders. Other common commodities in the area include
beans, sweet potatoes, avocadoes, amadumbe (taro) and vegetables. There are also a variety of fruit
trees, namely peaches, mango, bananas, and guavas. The communities survive on pension and child
grants, small business activities and seasonal employment in neighbouring commercial farms. The
farmers also keep livestock in the form of cattle, goats, and poultry.
Local Infrastructure
After many years in construction, Mayizekanye finally has a +-5 km tar road which ends just as the
community begins. The area is highly underdeveloped in terms of infrastructure, and although most
households have running water, the taps often run dry for extended periods. Mayizekanye has a
local clinic which also accommodates Gobizembe and Emambediwni communities. There is one
informal grocery store in the area and a few spaza shops throughout the community. In
neighbouring Gobizembe, there are also a few spaza shops in the community. The roads are poor
and very slippery under wet conditions. Although, like Mayizekanye, there are taps in the
homesteads, most are not working. Some community members have addressed this by installing
JoJo tanks. A municipal water delivery vehicle also supplies the homesteads with water at least once
a week. Wartburg is the primary local town where the main supermarket is Spar. Farmers purchase
most of the household food items at Spar when they collecttheir pension and social grant payouts.
There are some vendors on the main road and by the taxi rank, but the town is generally busy only
on pension days.
Institutional Arrangements
Mahlathini Development Foundationstarted working in Swayimanein 2018, with Mayizekanye being
the oldest community followed by Gobizembe. CA learning groups were established which were
involved in the planting of CA trials of maize, legumes, and cover crops. The Ndlaveleni learning
group and Gobizembe youth groups were established in 2023. Also, with MDF, the community has
been involved in climate resilient agriculture, and have diversified their farming systems to include a
variety of vegetables and herbswhich are essential for food security and nutrition. They have also
expanded their farming systems to incorporate livestock in the form of poultry.
The Institute of Natural Resources (INR)is also involved with Swayimanecommunities under the
Elifans project which seeks to support food security initiatives that are focused on women. One of
the primary aims of the project is to identify local innovations and support them in partnership with
other organisations working in the areas. The INR is also involved in the rehabilitation of springs in
Swayimaneand is looking into getting involved in the clearing of alien invasive species, which
threaten the water sources in the area and have encroached on local pastures, drastically reducing
their quality.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal is currently running 6 projects in Swayimaneunder the Umngeni
Resilience Programme (URP) and the Water Research Commission. Although the URP program has
come to an end, the research continues. Some of the focus areas have included a study on climate
resilient built infrastructure early warning systems including one for lightning, linked to a
communication process and weather stations in the area, exploration of commercial production of
cannabis and the use of drone technology to assist smallholder farmers in coping with both biotic
and abiotic factors which affect their farming systems. The WRC project aims to develop a database
for underutilized crops such as amadumbe, sweet potatoes and Bambara nuts.
Msinsi Farmingworks in protected areas and is involved in the removal of alien invasive species
within these protected areas. They also visit schools and have information sessions on
environmental conservation and mainly work individually but have recently been involved in
proposal writing with the INR.
SA Canegrowers association is a commodity organisation which works with small scale growers and
land reform beneficiaries around the Illovo mill. Their primary services are compilation of business
plans, commodity enterprise research and diversification. It is estimated that small scale growers
supply less than 5 % of the sugar cane in the sugar industry. Seed cane growers seek to increase the
percentage by giving farmers access to disease free seed cane. They also help farmers with
vegetable projects as well as with collecting top and sub soil samples.
Jagbaanis a local agricultural input supplier and they have given a few presentations in the
community on the various products and services they offer. Their main object was to make farmers
aware of what products are available locally, especially when it comes to animal feed and medicinal
c.MDFinterventions to strengthen local food systems in the Midlands.
Conservation Agriculture (CA)
Conservation agriculture (CA) is an alternative approach to conventional farming which promotes
better use of natural resources to improve sustainability and resilience to climate change. The
primary principles of CA include minimum soil disturbance, permanent soil cover and crop
diversification. Since farmers still had some level of success with the conventional approach to
farming, the introduction of CA was initially met with resistance. Nevertheless, as time went on and
farmers saw the benefits of not disturbing the soil, their attitude towards CA began to change. The
potential for CA to improve yields compared to conventional farming, however, remains under
question by the farmers. Benefits in soil fertility, soil health, reduced erosion and improved water
management have been noted. Planting under CA also played a significant role in reducing input
costs, due to the reduced use of synthetic fertilisers and the elimination of ploughing which removed
tractor hire costs.
In the last three years, rainfall has been exceptionally high which led to crop damage due to black
rot, especially among legumes. The alternating high temperatures and high rainfall also led to
increased levels of stalk borer infestation which led farmersto purchase even stronger and more
expensive chemicals to control it. Further to that, farmers in the Midlands plant maize to sell to local
bakkie traders, but due to declining yields, the rising price of inputs, and the ever-present
competition with commercial farmers, even this market is under threat. This has caused some to
either downscale maize production or cease growing maize altogether and focus on other
Another significant principle of CA is ensuring that the soil is always covered and incorporating a
diversity of crop types either through intercropping, relay cropping or crop rotation. Various cover
crops which included legumes, brassicas, grasses, and cereals were introduced. These varieties came
in mixtures which could be planted in summer and winter to protect and improve soil fertility.
Incorporating cover crops worked well for farmers who kept livestock, as they were able to cut and
carry in winter. Some farmers reported that their livestock refused to eat any of the cover crops and
thus they stopped growing them. There is still a need for more workshop on the uses and benefits of
cover crops in the Midlands.
The greatest benefit of CA in Midlands was that farmers became conscientized to the fact that it is
possible to grow field crops and market them without damaging the soil structure and over applying
synthetic fertilisers. The reduction in input costs has always been reported as one of the major
advantages of CA, especially in this economy. Over the years, some farmers were willing to expand
their CA plots and others requested to do so, which meant they recognised the role CA played in
helping them deal withthe effects of climate change.
Figure 26: Examples of CA cropping for smallholder farmers in the Midlands showing beans (L), summer cover crops (M) and
maize and bean intercropping (R) , undertaken by farmers in the CRA learning groups.
Climate Resilient Agriculture
In efforts to mitigate the effects climate change, MDF has collaboratively explored various options
which farmers can implement. This was done through a series of climate change workshops which
served to create awareness on how climate change affects food production as well as quality of life,
and what scientists foresee in the future should the situation not change. Farmers shared their
indigenous practices for protecting their crops and livestock, which included filling bottles with
ocean water to drive away hailstorms, banging lids to divert heavy winds, attempts at covering their
crops to protect them, leaving crying babies next to ponds to appease the rain queen and where
necessary, changing planting times. In Mayizekanye, a custom of making sacrificesto
nomkhubulwane has been revived and is performed once a year. Farmers from the area are not
allowed to touch soil on Tuesdays as this is the day they performed the ritual. All the above point to
the socio-cultural beliefs that drive farmer behaviours.
Since some of the traditional practices became obsolete,
farmers believe this is the reason for the adverse climatic
conditions and yield declines. Others believe that nature
is retaliating against a morally degraded society which
has angered the gods and the powers that be.
Practices presented by MDF covered five main categories,
which are water conservation, soil health, soil fertility,
livestock management and crop management. Within
these themes came the specific practices which provided
practical and feasible solutions for the local contexts.
Figure 27: Example of a micro tunnel for a smallholder farmer in
Mayizekanye, Swayimane.
Micro-tunnels were installed throughout Midlands to
help reduce the impacts of heavy rains and violent winds
which damaged crops. The tunnels were erected over
deep trenches which were filled with organic matter and
constructed into raised beds where a variety of crops
were planted. Some of these crops were new to farmers,
such as mustard spinach, Chinese cabbage, leeks and herbs. To address the water shortage issue,
bucket drip kits were also installed in the tunnels, which are drip irrigation systems that channel
water including grey water to plants over a period. To date more than 40 tunnels have been
constructed in the Midlands.
The tower garden is another example of a system designed to be cost effective and save on water
and fertiliser. These gardens are easy to manage and can plant close to 100 seedlings, depending on
size. They also have low weed outbreaks. Tower gardens are irrigated using grey water, which meant
that farmers could save on water by reusing their wastewater to irrigate their plants.
Figure 28: Above left: An example of tower gardens in a homestead plot in Swaiymane and a small cage of 4-week-old
Boschvelder chickens, newly introduced at household level.
Livestock integration entailed, amongst other activities, the introduction of Boschvelderchickens, a
multipurpose breed which is hardy and a very good source of both meat and eggs. These birds were
supplied together with cages to protect the chicks from being eaten by predators. Training on
poultry production was provided to capacitate farmers who did not own livestock, to integrate them
into their farming systems. The training was so well received that in 2023 alone, more than 3000-day
old broiler chicks have been purchased by Midlands farmers, and farmers place orders almost on a
weekly basis. Broilers are highly popular because of their quickturnover and because they provide a
source of meat to the households in tough economic times. Fewer farmers have ordered layers, as
they are more expensive.
Local marketing initiatives
Potential marketing options were explored intensively over a period for 2-3 years, through
workshops, meetings and semi-structured interviews with individuals and stakeholders, to develop a
process of intervention to assess the best options in marketing for these smallholders.
Most of the sales for smallholder farmers occur under the following circumstances:
Food first, income from surplus (80% of participants)
Expansion of existing cropping areas and types and number of crops grown (10-15%)
Production specifically for sale (1-5%).
The following marketing avenues have been explored with the learning groups in the area:
Farmgate (within villages); small local potential with low-income ceilings
Local market stalls (combined across villages); much larger range of products and income
potential, also now focus on labelling, branding, pricing, value adding and processing.
Bakkie traders, stores in local towns (individuals and groups within villages); generally,
commodity focused, and farmers are price takers good for larger quantities but no
competitive advantage.
Sale to local retailers and supermarkets (individuals); requires transport, intermittent, price
takers, little stability, competitive overall potential low.
The local market stalls have provided the best option for marketing and show a large potential for
expansion, both in number and size. Farmgate sales have been the most common for field crops,
poultry (eggs and broilers) and livestock. The following table provides a summary of average
incomes for each of these ‘commodities’ across two seasons of implementation.
Table 9: Average incomes for commodities supported in the CRA learning groups: per participant.
Average monthly income per
Annual income potential
Layers (eggs)
Field crops:
Average monthly value of food
per participant
All commodities: This is an estimate only (further
corroborated in resilience snapshots)*
R8 400,00
Commodity for a selection of participants only
Average monthly income per
Annual income potential
Green Maize
R15600,00 (up to R24000)
Stall fed calves
R9000,00 (up to R50000)
Total value of production (incl. all commodities
but excl. the selection)
*NOTE 1: Rand value for food was calculated from the individual interview, which elucidated detailed information of the produce
consumed at a household level in Kgs for vegetables, field crops and poultry. A Rand value of R5.00 was ascribed to each kg of produce
as an estimate.
NOTE 2: From the resilience snapshots undertaken the value of R3060 resonates well with actual incomes outlined by participants,
which were between R750 and R3650 on average across the sites.
Values for the table have been averaged across all participants who were monitored, and we
assumed that a particular participant is involved in the production of all commodities supported in
this process (poultry, dryland crops and vegetables). It thus provides a reasonable estimate of
average potential incomes (profits after subtraction of input cost) for participants in this
livelihoods intensification and diversification process. This is a substantial livelihood improvement
and is often more than participants receive from other sources, such as grants.
Local market stalls
This strategy of aggregating all produce across a selection of villages and selling monthly at a market
stall based at a central point such as a grant pay point or taxi rank, has been the main intervention. It
has included working with participants on pricing, produce quality, labelling and branding of produce
and the stall. It appears to be the most appropriate strategy at present, that can accommodate for
small quantities of a range of products as well as inconsistency of supply. It also ensures that farmers
can charge reasonable prices for their produce.
Farmers have learnt which produce has high demand at the market stall and can now estimate the
quantities needed for each market reasonably accurately. They still sell out, however, but no longer
have large quantities of unsold produce to take home again. They have also built a reputation among
buyers, as they have been careful to be there regularly. They provide social support to each other
and if individuals have family emergencies, others in the group will take their produce to the market
and do the sales for them.
Figure 29: Above left: Participants busy setting up their monthly market stall. Note packaging for potatoes, beans ,eggs and
vegetables being sold. Above right: An example of the monthly posters and price lists used to advertise this market, both
locally and through social media.
Preparation for market days entails quite a lot of planning and logistics as groups need to come
together to list their produce availability and quantities, prepare produce and price tags, arrange
transport, their market stall equipment and who will be selling on the day. They also manage the
record keeping of sales and distribution of monies between farmers involved. For Ozwathini, as they
have decided to sell for 3 consecutive days each month, they have arranged for storage space in
Bhamshela, close to where they have their stall. For this group a social media platform for sale of
produce to a number of individual buyers in Pietermaritzburg has also been set up. This platform
(WhatsApp and Facebook) is managed by the MDF facilitators, as is transport and delivery.
2.Cross Visits, Multistakeholder Platforms, Learning Workshops
Since the inception of the project, MDF has opened up platforms for farmers to learn and share
knowledge. In 2022 there was a cross visit from Midlands to Bergville, where farmers witnessed how
people from other areas use available resources to improve their livelihoods. During the cross visits,
the farmers visited some of the CA trials in Bergville and got to see their tunnels and poultry
production. Multi stakeholder platforms include farmers days by MDF and other stakeholders. One
such platform was the livestock open day held in Swayimaneand Ozwathiniin August which focused
on livestock rearing and the integration of cover crops to save on feed expenses. Learning
workshops include a wide range of learning sessions and discussions on various topics such as soil
fertility, pest and disease control, mixed cropping, and savings amongst others. All these platforms
open farmers up to the bigger picture and strengthen existing local networks while opening
opportunities for the formation of new ones.
The strengthening of local food systems is imperative if the SDGs as envisioned by the UN are to be
achieved. MDF has been involved in multiple initiatives that seek to empower and capacitate local
farmers to improve the productivity of their farming systems and find effective ways to turn their
farming activities into income generating enterprises. All of this while seeking ways to effectively
reduce the impacts of climate change and improve the resilience of smallholder farming systems.
Experience has shown that one dimensional interventions do not last long and if interventions are
going to have a lasting impact, they must be multifaceted or at least flexible enough to allow for
expansion and incorporation of new innovations and technologies into the system. Mahlathini’s
approach to rural wealth creation encompasses the identification of interventions at various points
of the food value chain, from production up to marketing. This approach has allowed for significant
improvements in productivity, local food access and local incomes. It has also provided for options
for diversification and implementation of climate resilient agriculture practices, improving the
adaptive capacity of participating smallholders. In addition, it also allows for external stakeholders
to walk the production journey with farmers and better understand their challenges, needs and
desired outcomes. It also builds relationships between local farmers and external stakeholders as it
allows space for vulnerability, learning, reflection, and formulation of new ideas.
d.References for this case study
1.Brunori G, Bartolini F, Avermaete T, Matjis E, Brzezina N, Moragues Faus A, Sonnino R,
Marsden T.TRANSMANGO Project D2.1 “Conceptual Framework” (2014)
2.FAO, European Union, CIRAD and DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security (CoE-FS).
2022. Food Systems Profile South Africa. Catalysing the sustainable and inclusive
transformation of food systems. Rome, Brussels, Montpellier, France and Bellville, South
3.Global Alliance for the Future of Food, (2021). Principles for Food Systems Transformation: A
Framework for Action. n.p. Global Alliance for the Future of Food, June 2021
4.Hlahla Se, Ngidi M, Duma E, Sobratee-Fajurally N, Modi AT, Slotow R, Mabhaudhi T. (2023),
Policy gaps and food systems optimization: a review of agriculture, environment, and health
policies in South Africa: Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems Vol 7.
5.Kushitor, S.B., Drimie, S., Davids, R. et al. The complex challenge of governing food systems:
The case of South African food policy. Food Sec. 14, 883896 (2022).
6.Nesheim MC, Oria M, Yih PT, (2015). A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System.
Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2015 Jun 17. 7, A Framework for Assessing
the Food System and Its Effects.Available from:
7.United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), (2016). Food Systems and Natural
Resources. A Report of the Working Group on Food Systems of the International Resource
Panel. Nairobi, Kenya.
8.Pereira L.M. (2014) The Future of South Africa’s Food System: What is research telling us? SA
Food Lab, South Africa.
9.United Nations South Africa. (2021). The slow violence of malnutrition in South Africa.
Pretoria: UNICEF. Retrieved from https://southafrica.un.org/en/123531-slow-violence-
Written by Nqe Dlamini
Globally, subsistence and smallholder farmers and in particular, women contribute in diverse ways
to agricultural production and food security. Despite this role of agriculture, subsistent and
smallholder farmers face enormous challenges with regards to access to production capital and
especially production credit. In striving to enhance smallholder farmers’ access to production capital,
several non-governmental organisations are integrating and institutionalising the use community-
based and informal financial services institutions. Through the support by these rural development
agencies, many of these farmers participate in Farmer Learning Groups (FLGs) and Village Savings
and Loans Associations (VSLAs). VSLAs are essential in bringing some financial services to
populations where access is scarce. Mahlathini Development Foundation (MDF) carried out an
investigation to find out the usefulness and contribution of VSLAs to entrepreneurial support and
average capital injection into farming business enterprises and related enterprises. Data was
collected from 65 members of FLGs in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo provinces. This report dissects
the extent members of the Farmer Learning Groups (FLGs) use Village Savings and Loans
Associations (VSLA) toimprove household livelihoods in terms of acquiring assets and operating
income generating activities.
b.Problem Statement
Informal financial institutions such as VSLAs are known for their ability to resolve scarcity of cash in
underdeveloped communities. These institutions help their members to manage cash-flow in ways
that mitigate the consequences of poverty. This is because these informal financial institutions are
able to mobilise huge savings and loan funds that are circulated in the economy. However, there is
problem facing researchers and rural development practitioners. The main problem is that despite
substantial savings that are circulated by VSLAs in local economies, the extent members use their
drawings for productive purposes remains blurred.
c.The Aim of the Study
The study explored the usefulness and contribution of VSLAs to entrepreneurial support and average
capital injection into farming and related enterprises. The study employed the Sustainable
Livelihoods Framework (Scoones, 1993; Chambers & Conway, 2002), tounderstand types of income
generating activities (IGAs) that are mostly operated by members of FLGs, and the extent members
of the FLGs use their VSLAs to finance their production activities. The study also investigated the
difference incomes and expenses between members and non-members of VSLAs.
d.How do VSLAs work?
Members or users of a VSLA make regular contributions to self-capitalise, that is, to build a group
fund. Users do this by committing on making regular deposits of varying amounts to build the group
fund. The most dominant practice in South Africa is that VSLAs meet at least once a month to
conduct their business. The group fund is then used to provide microloans to internal borrowers at
an agreed interest rate. At the end of a savings cycle, which is usually a year; a VSLA would dissolve
and distribute itsgroup fund proportionally to the deposits of individual members. This means that
all the money in the group fund, which includes savings, interest and fines is paid out to the
members proportionally to their savings at the end of the savings cycle.
e.Literature Review
The Concept of Sustainable Livelihoods
The concept of Sustainable Livelihoods (SL) stems from the advisory panel of the World Commission
on Environment and Development (WCED, 1987). Since then, the Sustainable Livelihood Approach
(SLA) has been widely used to guide development policy, research and execution and performance
monitoring of development projects.
The widely accepted assertion is that, “a livelihood comprises, the capabilities, assets (stores,
resources, claims and access) and activities required for a means of living: a livelihood is sustainable
which can cope with and recover from stress and shock, 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” (Chambers & Conway, 1992, p. 6).
In most basic terms, 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).
This assertion makes SLA an analytical framework that can be used in almost all phases of a
development project. The significance of the SLA is its ability to move beyond the analysis of income
and taking into consideration all signs and symptoms of poverty, social exclusion and vulnerability
(Krantz, 2001). The SLA puts people at the centre of their development and it recognises that poor
people are the best to know their own problems and to develop solutions that help them to resolve
challenges they face (ibid).The SLA has been used as analytical framework for the study for at least
three main objectives.
Firstly, SLA has been used by many international organisations such as United Kingdom’s
Department for International Development (DFID), OXFAM, CARE and many others for planning
their development programmes (Carney et al., 1999).
Secondly, SLA has been used as a set of guiding principles and as an analytical framework to
guide development programmes (Allison & Horemans, 2006).
Lastly, SLA has also been used to assess the extent development activities fit into the livelihoods
of the poor for the purposes of helping development organisations to improve their monitoring,
evaluation, reflection and learning frameworks and programmes(Kollmair, 2000).
These three elements of the SLA have been brought together and framed as an analysis tool that is
used to understand the complexity of poverty and development. This analysis tool is referred to as
the Sustainable Livelihood Framework (SLF). The SLF recognises at least three types of capital that
are most relevant for the study. These are financial capital, social capital and human capital (DFID,
2001). In the context of SLF, social capital includes all the social resources at ones disposal to use to
implement livelihood objectives. In the instance of a FLGs and VSLAs, the use of networks,
relationships, membership and connectedness tend to increase levels of trust that are essential for
working together (ibid) and strengthen human capital. For the VSLA to operate optimally, it requires
knowledge, talent and skills that are provided by healthy and enabled bodies. VSLA is described as a
key financial resource together with other regular inflows of money for multiple sources of income.
Livelihood strategies and livelihood outcomes are most important components of the SLF. A
livelihood strategy is a combination of choices and activities that people undertake to achieve the
planned and desired outcomes (Kollmair & Gamper, 2002). A livelihood outcome is essentially the
achievement of a livelihood strategy such as food security, more income streams, more money,
access to services, etc. where a combination of livelihood outcomes reduce vulnerability.
This study used the SLF as the main lens to explore types of IGAs that are mostly operated by
members of FLGs, and the extent members of the FLGs use their drawings received from the VSLAs
to finance their production activities.
Understanding the Pro-poor Microfinance
The purpose of this section is to describe the relationship between microfinance programming and
VSLAs. In under-serviced populations and settlements, decentralised and member-owned informal
financial institutions are often the most responsive financial services providers. The analysis of
microfinance is drawn mainly from the observations Rutherford (2000), Dichter (2006), Ditcher and
Happer (2007) and Bateman (2010). The study gives credit to the experience of the Grameen Bank.
The significance of the Grameen Bank is that it was able to attract ideas, approaches and models for
planning and delivery of microfinance interventions around the world. The experiences and lessons
learnt from the 1950 and in particular the unpalatable consequences of microcredit programmes
saw the emergence of microfinance as a concept that embraces the provision of a basket of financial
services to the poor and vulnerable populations.
Stuart Rutherford worked with poor people in the slums of Dhaka for over 20 years. He documented
their experiences with regards to their sources of incomes, their relationship with money and what
their expenses. He conducted his research in selected settlements in South Africa, Bangladesh and
India by collecting household financial transactions on fortnightly basis for nearly a decade. He
subsequently published an essay in 2000 entitled ‘The Poor and their Money’. Rutherford argues
that poor people need greater than their usual sums of money from multiple income streams in
order to meet life-cycle events; to guard themselves against risk and to seize income generating
opportunities (Rutherford, 2000). Ditcher and Happer (2007) align with the observation madeby
Rutherford (2000) by emphasizing that drawings made from VSLAs and other community-based
informal financial schemes are largely used for consumption purposes and purchasing of household
Dichter (2006) raises a concern of the “paradox of microcredit”. He argues that microcredit provide
little capital for poor people to operate profitable enterprises. A similar concern is extended by
Bateman (2010) who maintains that microfinance programmesthat are designed to lift poor and
vulnerable populations out of poverty actually reinforce poverty they are set to eliminate. Further to
this, Bateman and Chang (2012) argue that microfinance model traps poor into poverty because
community-based informalfinancial institutions fail to provide enough investment capital for low-
income earners to succeed in a saturated informal economy.
The battle between promoters and critiques of microfinance programmes is an obvious one. In this
instance, promoters are convinced that microfinance programmes help to fight poverty while the
critiques on the other side argue that there is evidence that suggests microfinance programmes are
reproducing poverty. The debates in within the microfinance sector do not concern this study.
However, the impact of VSLA programmes and self-capitalised community-based informal
institutions is acknowledge. This is because self-capitalised informal financial institutions continue to
provide financial services to millions of low-income earners outside the mainstream financial
In conclusion, VSLAs cannot escape disputes taking place within the microfinance sector in general.
Opportunities for harnessing collective strength of VSLAs, their knowledge construction and practice
may be under-imagined, undermined or unexplored. Such critique presents the need for further
research in this sector and in this instance, to explore the extent VSLAs contribute into broad-
based economic development objectives within the food system and agricultural value chains.
Poverty and VSLAs
Many underserved populations in South Africa and in particular rural communities are characterized
by theatres of socio-economic hardships and poverty resulting from hundreds of years of oppression
and marginalisation. Lack of access to usable financial services appears to be the most frustrating
feature besetting life improving efforts mainly in underserved rural settlements. This section brings
forth the argument that institutions of power exhibit financial practice that systematically
marginalise and exclude low-income earners to access to financial instruments that will allow them
to live better.
Today, the importance of VSLAs is that they provide essential financial services mostly to low-income
earners that are either not served or inconvenienced by formal financial institutions. Scarcity of
cash, and/or poor circulation of cash is the main feature of rural settlements. Scarcity of cashis a
direct consequence of sustained financial and marginalisation by the institutions of power, mainly
the state and financial institutions.
“Men and women say they need credit, not only to improve their livelihoods and for emergencies
but also sometimes for daily expenditure during difficult times. When networks of relatives and
friends are not sufficient, poor people say that, to survive, they frequently turn to moneylenders,
shopkeepers and pawnbrokers.” (Chambers et al. 2000, p. 56)
The above quotation expresses the frustrations of poor people and what they use financial services
for. The significance of VSLAsis that they provide alternative and convenience platforms for low-
income earners to save and build pools of capital fund that they use to provide micro-loans and
lump sum pay-outs at the end of saving cycles. In this way low-income earners participating in VSLAs
are able to resolve some of their financial challenges that are constantly reproduced by scarcity of
cash. Basically, VSLAsimprove capabilities of the poor to build assets that help them to survive
misfortunes as expressed by Chambers and Conway (1992) in their SLF.
A livelihood is described as:“…comprising people, their capabilities and their means of living,
including food, income and assets. Tangible assets are resources and stores, and intangible assets
are claims and access.... A livelihood is socially sustainable which can cope with and recover from
stress and shocks andprovide for future generations.” (Chambers & Conway, 1992, p. 1)
The significance of above definition of livelihoods in this study is that it gives us a lens to see and to
understand objectives, scope and priorities of human development as defined by people living in
poverty. Most importantly, it provides us with cues that help us see and define VSLAsand financial
education the way users perceive them and not how the dominant hegemony sees them. I
therefore argue that central to the priorities of VSLAsis vulnerability. VSLAshelp users mitigate
and/or prevent exposure to vulnerability. Dercon (2001) describes vulnerability as: “…determined by
the options available to households and individuals to make a living, the risks they face and their
ability to handle these risks.” (Dercon, 2001, p. 27)
According to Dercon (2001), the exposure to vulnerability is expressed by the options available to
individuals to take specific actions that mitigate consequences of risks they face. In the eyes of poor
people, receiving financial services from their VSLAsreduces exposure to their vulnerability and
presents the much-neededsafety nets for surviving poverty.
People define and decide the course of their development. However, the financial services
environment remains complex for many. Its complexity tends to constrain full access of users of
VSLAsto financial services and wealth-building instruments (Mader, 2015). Basically, South African
banks only offer limiting transactional accounts for member-owned informal financial institutions,
and mainly the stokvels. These accounts are usually emptied at the end of savings cycle which is
usually a year. The largest majority of VSLAs, savings group, savings clubs and stokvelsoperate in
twelve months cycles, and always start at zero after depleting entire group fund. This practice tend
to throw users of VSLAs into perpetual non-productive consumption. The depletion of pools of
savings in annual cycles keeps low-income earners distracted from wealth-building financial
The theoretical approach of sustainable livelihoods cannot be complete without reflecting on the
concept of community development. There are several contestations around the concept of
community development and what it represents (Watt, 2016). The first approach do community
development has attracted a lot of controversy mainly from the African intellectuals. According to
Watt (2016), international community and national governments have developed instruments of
community development that are mostly imposedon communities resulting in unimaginable
violations of communities by public officials and their handlers. This is community development that
is disempowering and marginalising (Swanepoel and De Beer, 2006) as it is designed to maintain the
oppressive status quo. According to Hauser and Freire (2002) and Burke (2010), empowering
community development is characterised by collective action and communities taking the lead,
responsibility and full ownership development phases and actions. Makuwira (2006) notesthat full
participation of all stakeholders and communities underpins the theory of people-centred
development (World Bank, 1996) through which community resources including human capacities
are mobilised to deliver on socio-economic development objectives of their localities. It is in this way
that local people are able to determine their own futures.
In conclusion, the main highlights noted from the supporters of community-based microfinance
programmes such as Rutherford (2000), Allen (2007) in Ditcher and Happer (2007), Allen and
Panetta (2010), Markel and Panetta (2014), Ngcobo (2018) and others all promote positive impact
VSLAs have made with regards to consumption smoothing, betterment of dwellings, income
generating initiatives, and generally, the ability to meet the demands of life-cycle events.
The study was located within the interpretive paradigm. This is because the study sought a deeper
understanding of how the members of FLGs experienced the use of financial services that are
provided by their VSLAs for productive purposes. Purposive sampling was used to identify
participants. The sample was made up of 65 members of FLGs.
According to Morse and McNamara (2013), the SLA accommodates data tools such as interviews,
observation and participatory methods to assess vulnerability and impact of development initiatives.
The study commenced with focus group discussions and was followed by semi-structured interviews
as data generation methods. A focus group discussion is a qualitative data collection tool. It is a
structured and facilitated in-depth discussion. It is usually led by an experienced moderator who is
able to encourage participants to engage freely. It is typically carried out by a small group roughly
between 6 10 people with similar backgrounds for the purpose of discussing a specific topic of
interest and to provide useful insights on the topic.
Semi-structured interviews were used to supplement focus group discussions. Semi-structured
interviews allowed the exploration of the experiences the perceptions of participants. Semi-
structured interviews were chosen because they promote natural conversations (Duranti, 2011) and
flexibility to use open-ended questions and to craft on the spot follow-up questions during the
interview (Neergaard & Leitch, 2015). Thematic content analysis which is a descriptive analysis of
data was used. The significance of thematic content analysis is that it ensures that the experiences
and voices of the research participants remain at the centre of the findings.
The purpose of this section is to present findings of the study. The main objective of this study was
to better understand the extent users of VSLAs use their drawings to support their productive
activities including financing their enterprises. The SLF was used as a tool of analysis to help
understand how a VSLA as a livelihood strategy interact with livelihood activities.
The study was conducted in Emmaus, Appelsbosch, Nokweja and Centocow in KwaZulu-Natal
province, and Worcester, Turkey-2, Madeira and Sedawa in the Limpopo province.
Table 10: No of participants in the livelihoods survey, November 2023
The largest majority of participants
in the FLGs are adult women at
87.7% and men making about 12.3%.
However, 21.5% of the FLGs
members did not participate in the
VSLA programme. About 27.7% or 18
participants are above 60 years old.
Total Study Participants
Total Non-VSLA Participants
Active participation of rural women in FLGs suggests that women are the key players in food
production and food security. This finding aligns with the findings of IFAD (2019) that over 50% of
the women across the globe are active food producers and just over 60% of rural women in Africa
depend on agriculture to generate household incomes. Despite this role in food production, women
face enormous challenges that continue to constrain their development. One of the challenges is
access to financial services and in particular production credit. Data reveals that VSLAs are
increasingly becoming the most preferred alternative with regards to saving and borrowing.
Main Sources of Household Incomes
Figure 30: Main sources of household income, with number of participants engaged shown as a percentage.
Data reveals that about 88% of participants are involved in business enterprises. Data also suggests
that about 57% receive state welfare grants, of which around 30% receive pension grants.The main
income generation activities or village-based enterprises include:
27,7% 29,2%
3,1% 6,2%
Pension grantChild support
Pension grant +
child support
RemittancesPiece jobs
and/or part-
Running an
60% of the participants use farming to generate their household incomes. In the main they
produce vegetables, maize and other field crops, broilers and eggs.
Just of 12% of the participants manufacture grass mats, beads, garments and scones and cakes.
Lastly, about 22% of the participants are involved in general trading which includes re-selling of
clothes, food vending and operating small retail shops known as tuck-shops in South Africa.
The highest number of respondents involved in diverse enterprises (87.7%) suggest the prevalence
of the missing middle if one takes the >80% of people that are dependent on state welfare grants in
South Africa.
Comparison of Average Incomes between VSLA and Non-VSLA Members
Figure 31: Comparison of incomes for participants in VSLAs and those who do not belong to these groups.
Data suggests that participants receive almost equal incomes mainly from the state welfare grants
and remittances. This source of income is referred here as non-farming business income. However,
the VSLA members tend to use the strength of the VSLAs to diversify and recycle their sources of
income.This means that VSLA members use their state grants and other incomes to generate further
income through farming, retail and trade, which non-VSLA members do not.Data suggests that VSLA
members have higher average incomes.
Table 11:Average incomes for VSLA and non-VSLA members
Name of Respondent
business income
Retail and
and services
Annual average VSLA
participants (n=16)
R20 658,00
R8 598,00
R3 000,00
R32 398,86
Annual average non-VSLA
participants (n=14)
R19 042,50
R34 242,50
R21 000,00
R6 825,00
R81 110,00
Non-farming business
Farming business incomeRetail and trade incomeTotal average income
VLSA ParticipantsNon-VSLA Participants
Note that actual incomes have been provided here averaged for 14 non-VSLA and 16 VSLA
participants respectively. This has been done to illustrate the large differences in income generation
and potential for the participants involved in the VSLAs compared to those who are not.
Significantly farming incomes for VSLA participants are 64% higher, retail and trade income is 77,8%
higher and the total average incomes is 57,8% higher for VSLA members, as shown in the small table
Table 12: Percentage difference of incomes for VSLA and non-VSLA participants.
VSLA Members
Non-VSLA Members
Farming business income
Retail and trade income
Total average income
Some of this non-business income empowers the participants to pay their regular contributions to
their respective VSLAs. Participation in VSLAs gives them access to short-term loans during a saving
cycle and lump sum share-outs at the close of a saving cycle. Some portions of non-business income
and VSLA drawings are used to finance business enterprises. On average, an enterprise operator
receives a quarterly income of R8561 which adds up to R34 244 annual income from a farming
operation. In addition, someenterprise operators would generate about R1750 non-farming
activities such as trading, and about R1706 from manufacturing and services, also on quarterly
Average Productive Use of Incomes
Data suggests that participants spend their business incomes and VSLA drawings mainly in farming
enterprises, house construction and/or renovations, traditional ceremonies and funeral insurance.
House construction and traditional ceremonies are big ticket expenses that participants have to save
for and cash-flow over a period of a year or so. This means that depending on the type and size of a
traditional ceremony, participants may save for more than a year. Participants revealed that they
use share-out lump sums for house construction and traditional ceremonies. Data also reflect that
participants may combine loans and share-out lump sums for enterprise development and house
renovation activities.
Figure 32: Productive use of incomes for VSLA and non-VSLA participants
89,5% 84,9%
10,5% 15,1%
Average: productive useAverage: farming production useAverage: other microfinancial services
VLSA ParticipantsNon-VSLA Participants
Data shows that VSLA members exceed non-VSLA members in all three major categories as reflected
in the table below.
Table 13: Percentage difference in productive use of incomes for VSLA and non-VSLA participants
Average: non-productive use
Average: productive use
Average: farming production use
Participants adopt multiple strategies to balance consumption smoothing and business enterprises.
Some of the strategies include recycling of sources of incomes. Recycling of sources of incomes
involves delayed gratification on the part of the participant.Participants may take short-term loans
for trading activities that generate profits quicker than farming operations. Participants may also use
their non-productive incomes to purchase maximum shares in their VSLAs so that they can take a
larger loan for their enterprises and/or for substantial expense. These substantial expenses are
mostly non-productive and may include furniture and appliances.
The difficulty for the researchers to understand the effects of VSLAs in terms of what members use
their drawings for is noted. It is even more difficult to measure productivity and incomes of
smallholder farmers because of two main factors. Firstly, researchers have to understand and
quantify the overall welfare effects of VSLAs. Generally, VSLA users spent the bulk of their drawings
on consumption smoothing. Secondly, farmers struggletotrack incomes from their agricultural
activities. In most cases, smallholder farmers do not keep records of their yields andthey do not sell
but consumetheir produce. Tracking the financial value of consumption is undertaken in other
monitoring processes but has not come through well in the present survey. However, thefindings of
thisstudy doesreveal the multifaceted benefits of VSLAs by exploring the extentto which
participants use their drawings for productive purposes.
Assets and capabilities of the participants to diversify their sources of income were observed.
Productive assets included broiler cages, egg layer cages, fenced gardens, cattle and goat kraals,
plastic water tanks, protected and piped water springs, tunnels, tuck-shops and farming implements.
Other non-productive resources that manifest improved quality of life and livelihoods included
brick/block houses, furniture like sofas, television sets, satellite television connections, appliances
like refrigeratorsand microwaves. The SLF describes the combined use of resources and productive
assets as livelihood strategies that are employed to prevent or mitigate specific risks and to achieve
the desired livelihood outcomes (Knutsson & Ostwald, 2006).
Years living in the same community, understanding of local market trends and years of farming
experience had a positive significance with learning groupmembers’ participation in VSLAs. This is
because VSLA members may have a few years to sort out consumption pressures that directly
compete with the early stages of enterprise development. The implication is that extended
participation in VSLAs have a positive impact on the participants with regards household welfare
pressures. However, such conclusions needfurther interrogation. It is therefore recommended that
future studies examine whether participants with a longer history of participation in VSLA are likely
to invest more in their enterprises.
The short duration of loans remain a serious concern for learning group membersoperating business
enterprises since loan terms constrain extended investments in enterprises. Generally, many NGOs
promote annual saving cycles for a number of reasons. One of the reasons is that VSLAs build on
practices of non-VSLA schemes in communities, such as stokvels whichare established to guard
against risks and meeting life-cycle events hence the need for multiple income streams (Rutherford,
2000). Financing farming operations with VSLA drawings (short-term loans and lump sum share-
outs) is a very complicated affair because loans are usually serviced by incomes received from non-
farming enterprises. In some cases, VSLA loans may not be aligned to production. As mentioned
earlier, the loan fund may not be sufficient for all farmers to borrow in a given planting season. This
provides an opportunity for NGOs to investigate options that would see VSLAs bulking loans and
provisionfor extended loan repayment periods. This means NGOs investing time and resources to
explain the benefits of bulking of loans, charging of affordable annual interest, and extending saving
cycles to three years of more. It also means promoting diversification into trading activities in order
to increase earnings and to enable borrowers to service VSLA loans while waiting for harvesting,
eggs to be laid or broilers to be sold. However, diversification into trading activities may risk shifting
farmers’ concentration from production activities and consequently drop the farm yields.
In conclusion, the use of SLF for this study to understand the extentto whichparticipants use
drawings from their VSLAs to operate their businesses reinforced the claim that SLF can be used as a
framework for facilitating planning of new development interventions (Morse & McNamara, 2013).
The study was able to draw from the capabilities of farmers in terms of assets they accumulate as a
results of improved access to financial services from their VSLAs. As a result participants were found
to be able to improve their capabilities, accumulate capital and assets, and provide better livelihoods
for their families (Chambers & Conway, 1992). The study has demonstrated that identification of
resources and assets that learning groupmembers accumulate during the course of their
participation in their VSLAs gives a better understanding how incomes are recycled and used.
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To intervene effectively in improvement and transformation of local food systems, it is important to
use a comprehensive framework to analyse all drivers, activities and outcomes of the system. This
allows assessment of the critical gaps and opportunities for intervention that are likely to provide
the largest impact. It will also allow an assessment of the boundaries of the potential of the
As local food systems are an effect of the broader regional, national and global food systems, these
drivers need to be well understood to act coherently at a local level.
A number of aspects of food systems can not be changed or transformed at a local level but can be
mitigated. This also implies the need for involvement of a range of role players and stakeholders and
for the importance of multifaceted interventions to provide for opportunities and strategies for
effecting positive change in the food system.
When planning for a food systems intervention the following aspects need to be considered.
ØFocus on poor and vulnerable peopleas they are the most likely to be negatively affected by the
present food system.
ØUse a systemic approach to food security including access, availability, affordabilityand
nutrition, to ensure the broadest impact possible. As an example, just intervening in homestead
gardens to improve vegetable production is unlikely to have a significant impact on household
food security. Such actions need to be combined with interventions around improved nutrition,
especially for young children, alternative income generation opportunities, improved supply
chain options and microfinance options as examples.
ØWork at multiple levels (local, regional and national) with a wide range of stakeholders
ØProvide a focus on building of social agencyat a local levelto engage across different thematic
areas and at multiple levels with a range of stakeholders.
ØUse a multi-pronged approach that can provide synergy for different aspects of the system such
as input supply, production, nutrition, income generation, microfinance, water management and
natural resource management.
ØLearning is central and works better in localised groups.
ØUse climate changeimpacts and adaptive strategies as the central overarching theme.Given the
disproportionate impact of climate change on the rural poor,
ØSustainable farming practices for improved resilience and productivityare crucial and need to be
a central aspect of food system interventions.
ØImproved systems for provision of agriculturalinputsneed to be considered- focus on local
options, renewable resourcesand aggregation strategies.
ØResource management and conservationneed to be included. Deterioration of the resource
base has a significant and increasing negative impact on potential productivity of farming
ØAccess to water for multi-purpose uses as well as water use efficiency are central and crucial
components to improved productivity and livelihoods.
ØMicrofinanceoptions for the rural poor need to be woven into potential interventions. Without
these, no significant improvements in livelihoods conditions can be effected.
ØAnd local marketingoptions that take into account the conditions under which smallholders
operate need to be developed.
The following broad activities are to be undertaken during this period:
ØContinuation of implementation for the CRA learning groups across three provinces
ØOngoing involvement in CoPs: AN-capacity building and learning, PGS-SA, Northern
Drakensberg collaborative
ØFinalization of master’s student concept note and registration at UFS.
ØDevelopment of local water accesscase studies
ØDevelopment of climate resilience monitoring framework and indicator sets.
Table 14: Work plan January-February 2024
Feb 2024
Feb 24
6. Local water
access case
MDF: Erna
Kruger, Betty
Nqobile Mbokazi
COPs: Continue with village level CRA
learning groups in KZN, EC and Limpopo
engaged develop case study framework
and conduct interviews.
MDF: Erna
Kruger INR:
Brigid Letty
COPs: Northern Drakensberg Collaborative
MDF; Erna
Kruger, Tema
mathebula and
Karen Kotschy
Develop monitoring framework and
indicators pilot M&E process in selected
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