The significance of African vegetables in ensuring food security for South Africa's rural poor
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Technologies and services provided to resource-poor farmers need to be relevant and compatible with the context in which they operate. This paper examines the contribution of extension services to the food security of resource-poor farmers in a rural village in South Africa. It considers these in terms of the local context and the production of African vegetables in household food plots. A mixture of participatory, qualitative and quantitative research tools, including a household survey, is used to argue that local production practices contribute more to food security requirements than the extension services. This is because of the ability of African vegetables to grow relatively well in semi-arid areas where other exotic plants do not, their ability to provide at least two foodstuffs during their life cycle, and the ability of either the fruit or the leaves, or both, to be dried and stored for consumption
in the winter months. These crops can make a significant contribution in terms of household food security, but a number of social and agro ecological factors are constraining their production and placing their availability under threat. Despite this, the extension services remain focused on certain activities within vegetable garden projects, even when these are not meeting their proposed
purpose food security by means of cash-crop production. The paper concludes that social and agro ecological constraints
could be improved if the extension services were changed. This could include the use of context specific and low-cost technologies to ensure that these crops are able to increase their contribution to household food security for resource-poor farmers in semi-arid areas.