Ensuring access to water for food production by emerging farmers in South Africa: What are the missing ingredients?

  • C Chikozho African Population and Health Research Centre, Nairobi, Kenya
  • R Managa Africa Institute of South Africa-HSRC, Pretoria, South Africa
  • T Dabata Africa Institute of South Africa-HSRC, Pretoria, South Africa
Keywords: land reform, water-access, irrigation, emerging-farmers, livelihoods


One of the key components essential to the productivity of small-scale farmers who secured farms through the land redistribution programme in South Africa is access to reliable sources of water for irrigation. In this study, we deployed a stakeholder-oriented qualitative research methodology to understand the extent to which land reform farming schemes in Bela-Bela and Greater Sekhukhune have been able to access water and use it to enhance their agricultural production. We were keen to identify and articulate the water-related challenges and missing ingredients for successful agricultural production on the new farming schemes. The study found that access to water for irrigated agriculture is not guaranteed for most of the emerging farmers and they do not have the finance needed to invest in sustainable water supply systems for irrigation. As a result, the majority of the farmers in our study sample have not been able to realize any meaningful agricultural production, with their farming schemes being either underutilized or not functioning at all. Other key challenges include lack of finance, high costs of electricity, and lack of farming knowledge among the emerging farmers. The paper concludes that there is need for key actors in the development sector to provide more substantive post–land transfer support and ensure better access to water for the emerging farmers. This will enhance the farmers’ chances of realizing more meaningful agricultural production while improving their livelihoods.

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Research paper