Towards sustainable livelihoods through indigenous knowledge and water use security: Insights from small scale irrigation schemes in Limpopo province

  • KD Naidoo
  • JM Thamaga-Chitja
  • HA Shimells
Keywords: Water security, rural livelihood, sustainable livelihood analysis, water policy analysis.


Water is integral to sustainable rural livelihoods and household food security due to its key role in household use, small-scale and homestead farming. Water security is an emerging concept, having gained increasing attention over the past five years. The World Economic Forum describes water security as “the gossamer” linking global economic challenges such as: the systemic web of food, energy, climate, economic growth and human security livelihoods in rural areas are at risk due to poor access and supply of water, and resource limitation and degradation. The role of indigenous and local knowledge in navigating livelihood options was explored through a Sustainable Livelihood Analysis (SLA) among three purposefully selected, rural, female farmer groups to elicit the role of water in agriculture and rural livelihoods. Complimentary to the SLA, a household water audit was conducted to assess water supply, water availability and associated challenges. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with willing irrigation scheme members. Key informant interviews were held with officials from district municipalities, extension officers and the Departments of Water Affairs. Water Policy Analysis (WPA) was conducted for pronunciations and impact on water access, governance, organizational structures and institutional arrangements. Content Analysis and SLA were adopted as the main data analysis tools. Key findings indicate knowledge gaps in policy and implementation and a lack of understanding of water management structures. Discourse between the transformation agenda of water reform and rural lifestyles, thus elicited gender tensions among study participants. These complex issues resulted in poor livelihoods for participants, who experience poor water access for current and future water use. Competition for the water supply, coupled with climate change was also identified as a serious threat due to expanding mining operations in the Limpopo Province. The study concludes that water use management and water policy reform intentions require robust investments in the capacity building of smallscale farmers in rural areas to improve access to water and its management.

Keywords: Water security, rural livelihood, sustainable livelihood analysis, water policy analysis.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1683-0296