Smallholder farmer coping and adaptation strategies for agricultural water use during drought periods in the Overberg and West Coast Districts, Western Cape, South Africa
Keywords:crops, drought preparedness, livestock, resilience, Western Cape
Drought is one of the most significant disasters affecting farm productivity in South Africa, with the Western Cape Province among the most affected areas. Smallholder farmers usually suffer the most due to limited resources. The study identified agricultural water use coping and adaptation strategies adopted by both crop and livestock smallholder farmers in the West Coast and Overberg districts during the recent 2015–2018 drought. Interviews were conducted with 100 smallholder farmers and 11 focus group discussions were held in the two districts. Quantitative data were analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences, while qualitative data were analysed using Atlas.ti. Furthermore, the Hyogo Framework of Action was used to analyse the support that smallholder farmers had received and to understand how smallholder farmers could be effectively supported to promote the adoption of proactive strategies to deal with drought in the short and long term. It was found that the 2015–2018 drought occurred when smallholder farmers from both districts were least expecting it and were unprepared. In the West Coast District, the main coping strategies included using borehole water and selling livestock. In the Overberg District, smallholder farmers coped by purchasing fodder and transporting water from sources such as the river and dam to the farms. Several smallholder farmers in both districts did not implement any adaptation strategies. They were largely unaware of proactive agricultural water use strategies that could bolster their resilience to drought. Recommendations for the future include the adoption of drip irrigation, mulching, growing vegetables with shorter growing periods and changing planting dates. For livestock farmers, adaptation strategies include drilling boreholes and grazing management. There is also a need for early warning systems to improve the drought preparedness of smallholder farmers.
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