Revitalisation of smallholder irrigation schemes for poverty alleviation and household food security in South Africa : a review

19 Nov 2019

There seems to be a general consensus that improving agriculture and enhancing agricultural productivity through irrigation will remain a key strategy for rural poverty alleviation in most of the low income countries, where the majority of the rural poor depend directly or indirectly on agriculture. Nevertheless, Smallholder Irrigation Schemes (SIS) in South Africa have performed poorly and have not delivered on their development objectives of improving rural livelihoods through sustainable crop production for food security and poverty alleviation. For a long time, dilapidated irrigation infrastructure was viewed as the single major cause of the poor performance and the government invested huge sums of money towards repairing infrastructure. Consequently, research and expenditure tended to focus on irrigation infrastructure, but often this proved fruitless because the human capital was not developed to effectively utilise and maintain the infrastructure. Recent research, however, has identified weak institutional and organisational arrangements and poor technical skills of farmers as probably the major factors leading to underperformance of most SIS. It is therefore recommended that crop production approaches including farmer training be considered alongside all other issues during revitalisation of SIS to improve on performance.