Conservation Agriculture Farmer Innovation Programme for smallholders in the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal
The Grain SA farmer-centred Innovation System approach has been instrumental to the success of the CA project intervention in Bergville and was introduced into other communities and maize producing areas within the province to scale out (expand) CA.
Expansion to other parts of KZN, such as the Midlands in this case, have relied on the reasonably organic approach of expressed interest (voluntarism) from individuals and communities as well as areas that have an element of interest related to our research focus areas, including the existence of organised and active farmer groups or innovation platforms (IPs). The project supports this process through facilitation, coordination, technical guidance, inputs and implements, learning / awareness materials and events and monitoring and evaluation. As in the Bergville project, local smallholder production practices will be adapted and expanded by the adoption of the various aspects of the CA system, mostly through active farmer-led experimentation and working with local village-based farmer groups. In 2017 farmer learning groups have been set up in a number of different study areas of the KZN Midlands region.
The formation of communities of practice (CoP) and stakeholder forums has also been given some focus under this project. Thus far forums have been set up in Ixopo (Madzikane) and Bergville consisting of representatives from the farmer groups, local supporting NGOs, KZN Department of Agriculture and Rural development (DARD), LandCare, the Grain SA Farmer Development Programme, Local Economic Development (LED) representatives of the Local Municipalities and KwaNalu. The potential for establishing economic development partnerships between communities, the municipality, commercial farmers, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Land Affairs and the Department of Housing will be further explored.
The intention is to provide a platform for sharing of information between farmers and stakeholders and to foster collaborative activities to ensure coherent support to the smallholder farmers. This process has strong support from the smallholders themselves and there are initial steps from stakeholders to be more cooperative.