Increased Food Security and Income in the Limpopo Basin through Integrated Crop, Water, and Soil Fertility Options and Public-Private Partnerships

Published on 5 August 2010

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Start Date: 1 January 2005 | End Date: 31 December 2009


The biggest challenges facing smallholder farming communities in the Limpopo Basin of southern Africa are food insecurity, poverty and ill-health. Many parts of the basin are routinely food-deficient and rely on food aid. In the past two seasons there have been confirmed reports of starvation deaths in basin areas in both Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The basin’s local economies depend on rainfed agricultural systems characterized by low productivity, vulnerability to frequent drought (and sometimes devastating floods), poor adoption of improved technologies and diminishing farm labor due to out-migration and HIV/AIDS. This is exacerbated by poorly developed input and output markets.This project recognizes that subsistence agriculture alone will neither meet future food needs nor address the growing poverty problem in these drought-stricken environments. There is need to strengthen linkages through a systems approach that integrates improved water and soil management with varietal improvement, markets and other institutional arrangements which facilitate farmer investment in improved production practices.

The CPWF’s project goal is to improve food security, incomes and livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the Limpopo Basin. To achieve this goal, the project built on: past and current collaborative research by national programs and the CGIAR on crop-water productivity in drought-prone areas; innovative approaches to participatory technology development and extension; and new institutional arrangements that link the public and private sector with the smallholder farmer in appropriate market chains.

The results from the activities include the following:

• Farmers identified water management technologies that led to higher yield in dry environments through participatory on-farm trials and farmer access to seed of the identified improved cereal and legume varieties that mature early and thus escape terminal drought. Increased yield was observed in water use efficiency trials, variety trials, water harvesting trials and soil fertility (fertilizer use trials)

• Farmers access to an assured market. The case of Progress Milling in the Limpopo Area of South Africa provided a learning point on the market driven technology adoption whereby farmers used fertilizer packs in different sizes on maize. This demonstrated to farmers that there was synergy of the resultant increased production and marketing of the surplus production. This new institutional arrangement led to a linkage of the public and private sector leading to greater uptake of technologies. This ensured sustainability of project outputs, and prevented agricultural resource degradation from nutrient mining and the exploitation of fragile lands.

• At the end of the project, the major output has been the improved food security of the direct beneficiaries who reported increased yields and production from the adoption of the various technologies. The project, however, did not make major immediate impacts on non beneficiaries as these would only be achieved through an up-scaling phase of the proven technologies of project.


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