The impact of smallholder irrigation on household welfare: The case of Tugela Ferry irrigation scheme in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
The potential of smallholder irrigated agriculture to enhance food security and alleviate rural poverty has led the South African Government to prioritise and invest significantly in irrigation establishment, rehabilitation and revitalisation. The question addressed in this study pertains to the extent to which smallholder irrigation has been able to reduce poverty in the rural communities to justify this investment. Using a sample of 251 farmers, this study found that factors such as land size, perceived soil fertility, household size, and access to support services were significant predictors of irrigation participation. The results from the treatment effect model indicated that access to irrigation plays a positive role in the welfare of rural households, with irrigators spending about ZAR2 000 per adult equivalent on consumption more than the non-irrigators. The study, therefore, concluded that government investments in smallholder irrigation for poverty reduction are justified. The other factors that influenced household consumption were off-farm income, land size, livestock size, education level, family size and access to support services and infrastructure. The study recommends that investments in smallholder irrigation continue for poverty reduction, and that priority should also be on finding other feasible rural micro-projects and development initiatives to complement smallholder irrigation and significantly reduce rural poverty.
Keywords: smallholder irrigation, poverty, food security, treatment effect model, Foster Greer Thorbecke (FGT) poverty measures