Smallholder farming styles and development policy in South Africa: The case of Dzindi Irrigation Scheme
Diversity among smallholders farming 1.28ha plots at Dzindi Irrigation Scheme in the Thulamela Local Municipality of Limpopo Province, South Africa is investigated by applying farming style theory. Farming styles refer to specific farming strategies, which are conscious responses of farmers to the prevailing ecological and socio-economic conditions. The specific objectives of the study were to identify and characterize styles of farming in the Dzindi community of smallholders, to provide an understanding of the different styles from a smallholder perspective, and to interpret the meaning of the findings for smallholder development policy. Data collection involved both quantitative and qualitative methods. Three main farming styles were identified, and in each of these farmers employed particular strategies, which were congruent with their farming objectives, and which represent different degrees of exposure to risk evidenced by the crop selection, the amount of land they planted, the service providers they used with specific reference to land preparation, the social networks they maintained, especially with regard to marketing produce, the labour they hired and the farming requisites they purchased and utilized. The findings suggested that the response by farmers in the different styles to contemporary agricultural and related policy aimed at their empowerment and commercialization in unlikely to be uniform, and this is expected to dilute the impact of policy measures in support of specific development trajectories.
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