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1.   The reasons behind ‘Amanzi for Food’

There is increasing interest, in South Africa and globally, in the concept of food security and its importance for all human development. A reliable supply of good quality water is essential to growing food. South Africa is a water scarce and water stressed country (DWA[F], 2000), with all of the available water resources already being allocated for different uses. This situation is likely to become even more serious as climate change and variability lead to reduced rainfall and increased temperatures, especially in the central and western areas of the country.

The main aim behind Amanzi for Food is to support everyone in the agricultural sector – including small-scale farmers and homestead food producers, extension workers, lecturers/trainers/teachers in agricultural training institutions (universities, colleges, high schools), etc. – to learn together about and implement different ways of harvesting, storing, and using rainwater according to their needs and contexts, to improve food production.  This online course will draw mostly on two sets of key materials developed by the Water Research Commission (WRC):

  1. Water Harvesting and Conservation (Denison et al.,2011) – WH&C
  2. Agricultural Water Use in Homestead Gardening Systems (Stimie et al., 2010) – AWHGS

In addition, the course will introduce other WRC materials with connections to rainwater harvesting and conservation (RWH&C).Powerpoint 1.1 provides short summaries of all the key WRC materials – click on the box, below.

Powerpoint 1.1: WRC Materials – Summaries

2.       Rainwater Harvesting & Conservation practices in farming processes and systems

This Amanzi for Food Training of Trainers course is designed to strengthen your work in implementing and supporting RWH&C practices, or techniques, across a wide range of farming processes and systems. RWH&C is not an isolated activity, and should be seen as part of a range of activities that contribute to the production of food through a wide variety of different farming processes and systems carried out at different scales. These processes, systems and scales are shaped by market (and society) needs and demands, and by farmers’ own ideas and aspirations, their capabilities, and their access to resources such as land, finance, labour and equipment.  You need to understand the different farming systems that are being followed in your area, so that you can identify which practices might be most appropriate in your farming community.

Module 1. Reflection Question 1
Module 1. Reflection Question 1

2.1 The RWH&C Practices

RWH&C practices are the starting point for sharing information on RWH&C, as these practices need to be implemented in order to improve food security.  It is important to establish which practices might be most appropriate for different farmers in your area, and which ones you might focus on in your work (as lecturers, extension officer, NGO/CBO trainers or farmers). You can decide on which might be appropriate given the different farming systems, the contexts, and the climate, soils and topography (shape of the land) of the area.

The course will help you find detailed information on all these practices from a variety of sources, including the WRC materials and the Amanzi for Food website. At different stages in the course hyperlinks will be provided to take you to other resources where you will find further information on the topic being discussed. You have already seen some of these hyperlinks, above.

Amanzi for Food groups the practices described in the key materials into 4 categories:

3. Farming scales, farmers’ aspirations and other factors

The choice of which RWH&C practice might be most appropriate will also depend to a large degree on the scale of any farming operation and on the farmers’ aspirations. The scales and farmers’/homestead garden food producers’ aspirations are often linked and are also often limited by other factors, especially access to critical resources such as land and finance.

3.1       Three scale bands

There is considerable discussion concerning how to define farming scales, and Amanzi for Food has decided to workwith three scale bands:

  1. Umzi (garden/homestead/school) – Fundamentally subsistence level or school learning This is thesmallest scale band, and includes homestead gardens, shared community gardens and school gardens, with thefocus very much on production for own use. Areas involved are rarely more than 1ha.
  2. Field (Small arable) – Small-scale commercial production. This mid-scale band encompasses larger sharedcommunity/co-operative gardens and dedicated arable plots, with the emphasis on production for incomegeneration, with some for own use, sharing and Generally areas of 1–2ha.
  3.  Farm (Large arable and livestock) – Full commercial production, and differing levels of (small and large) livestock Essentially focused on production for income generation. Generally areas of more than 2ha.
Powerpoint 1.2: Case Study Examples

This approach identifies some clear connections between factors. By using these scales you can identify:

  • Aspirations and interest – often with strong links to the scales,
  • Appropriate practices and technologies;
  • Required knowledge and skills; and
  • Partners/agents (who needs to be involved, who can assist and support?).

3.2          Further contextual factors

In addition  to   scale, aspiration  and/or  style of farming, the identification of practices will need to take account of:

  • Crop types – What types of crop do people want to grow? Which crops are suitable for different uses(subsistence use or commercial [market] use)?
  • Ecotype – What are the geophysical, biological and climatic features of the areas under cultivation?
  • Availability of financial and other resources

Other important factors to consider when deciding on appropriate practices are:

  • The level of technology involved
  • The levels of skill and knowledge required
  • The financial cost
  • The level of maintenance required

4. Selection of practices and selection of supporting information

4.1   The ‘Navigation Tool’

The ‘Navigation Tool’ (which you can access by clicking on the heading)  focusses on all these practices, and is designed for the purpose of helping in the process of ‘navigating’ into the key WRC materials and findinginformation relating to any of the practices you may be interested in. The information can come inany of three forms:

  1. as handouts (H)
  2. as case studies or stories (CS)
  3. as information in the text (T)

The Tool is arranged around four (4) different kinds of Activity or Practice associated with RWH&C:

  1. General Activities (Skills) Applicable to and Underpinning Many of the Key Practices
  2. Collecting, Reducing Loss and Holding Rainwater
  3. Storing Rainwater
  4. Using Rainwater for Irrigating Crops

The Tool also identifies the different levels of technology, skills and understanding, financing, and maintenance associated with each practice and defines the different levels as follows:

Low:

  • Technologies – basic gardening equipment;
  • Skills and understandings – as required for basic gardening;
  • Cost R0 – R1000;
  • Maintenance – none or one or two days a year, simple repairs

Medium:

  • Technologies – simple testing or measuring kits, tanks, pipes;
  • Skills and understandings – as required for small-scale business;
  • Cost R1000 – R10,000;
  • Maintenance – regular but infrequent checking/repair, 7 – 10 days/year, technical repairs.

High:

  • Technologies – specialised equipment (tractors, mechanical pumps, laboratories etc.);
  • Skills and understandings – as required for professional specialists;
  • Cost >R10, 000;
  • Maintenance – essential regular and frequent checking and repair, up to 50 days/year, complex technical repairs

Powerpoint 1.3 provides guidance in using the Navigation Tool to find out more information on the RWH&C practices, and is linked to Activity 1.2 – click on the box below.

Powerpoint 1.3: Using the Navigation Tool to find information

4.2               ‘Underpinning knowledge and skills’

 This supporting information should include what is known as:

  • ‘Underpinning knowledge’ – what we need to know in order to be able to do something
  • ‘Underpinning skills’ – what abilities we need to have in order to do something.

You next step is to identify the essential underpinning knowledge and underpinning skills needed for you to understand and implement the practices.

5. Small-scale farming as an activity system

Farmers do not act alone in their farming activities.  They work with other people in different ways, with each having their own roles and responsibilities.  Farmers also draw on information from different sources and use a variety of tools to help achieve what they want with their land. They are therefore involved in what is known as an Activity System.Powerpoint 1.4 explains farming as an Activity System and provides an example of how to describe a farming enterprise as an Activity System – click on the box below.

Powerpoint 1.4: Understanding our farming as an Activity System

5.1 Working and learning together across agricultural activity systems: The value of learning networks

In the areas in which the Amanzi for Food project has been working, it has been seen that one of the most effective ways in which farming activities (and activity systems) can be strengthened is through the development of learning networks. These bring together all the roleplayers, from farmers and farmer associations, extension services, education and training institutions, NGOs, and others to share their ideas and experiences, and support each other in their work.

Network members maintain almost constant communication via WhatsApp groups, where they can share their ideas and inform others of developments in their farming practices, notify each other of training opportunities or interesting articles they have come across in the media, or plan for meetings or other activities.

Members come together whenever they can to discuss issues of shared interest, or to support each other through lending their labour (for ilimas) and/or equipment to help develop new practices.  In the case of the people involved with the Amanzi for Food project, it is often to implement new RWH&C practices. One key focus for these learning networks has been to support members in establishing Productive Demonstration Sites (more on these in Module 2), where they can share active RWH&C practices with other farmers and neighbours beyond the network.

Figure 2 shows how different members in the learning networks are connected around their shared interest in sustainable water use.