Some considerations for supporting household food production in South Africa
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Recent research on food security in South Africa indicates that household food production is important to household food security in rural areas. While this highlights the constraints experienced by such producers and the contribution of African leafy vegetables to household food security, seemingly little research has considered the gender dimension of this type of agricultural production. With socio-economic and environmental conditions as an important backdrop, a gender analysis of a rural village in Limpopo Province, South Africa, indicates the different gender roles and responsibilities of household members and sheds light on current food production practices of female producers. This analysis identifies areas where support services can focus their attention.
Examination of the current provision of agricultural support services indicates their lack of a gender analysis and the subsequent inappropriateness of the gender-insensitive services provided. The following recommendations are made: (1) Prior to implementing support services a gender analysis of local roles and responsibilities should be conducted, and the findings should guide the design and delivery of support; (2) the roles and responsibilities of women in ensuring adequate household food supplies need to be acknowledged and supported, while the constraints they experience in ensuring household food security should be addressed; (3) current agricultural practices need to be acknowledged and understood so that introduced support is informed and can supplement them instead of ignoring them outright; (4) rather than creating new spaces for food production for a handful of residents, using technologies that cannot be replicated by most households, an alternative strategy would be to improve existing spaces thus reaching more women and improving their household food supplies; (5) ultimately, agricultural support services must be site-specific and, where possible, household-specific rather than universal in design and application. Services should enhance the capacity of local people to adopt appropriate technologies and recommendations; and (6) there is a need to increase the number of extension officers within remote rural areas so that they are able to deal more regularly and effectively with the communities they serve. Simultaneously they need to be better equipped in terms of skills and expertise so that they can better deal with the situations they encounter; (7) national commitments, such as extending the supply of water and electricity to rural villages, need to be closely monitored to ensure that they are met. They may well reduce the burden of time on rural women who are responsible for household water and energy supplies; and (8) provision of services to rural villages and households increasingly requires greater interdepartmental coordination and integration and implementation at the local level. Better skilled, equipped and supported extension officers could play a crucial role in this process.