The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) and the South African Sugar Association (Sasa) have made public their partnering in a project to help small-scale rural farmers in the Amatikulu catchment to improve their sugar cane yields while reducing negative environmental impacts through the application of better management practices (BMPs).
Following the signing of a memorandum of understanding in 2006, the R1,75-million project, of which R800 000 was funded through a partnership between Nedbank and the WWF, and the balance funded by Sasa, began in 2008 and will run for a total of four years.
The project is located in Ntumeni, north- west of Eshowe, and is a rural area that forms part of the uMalazi local municipality, home to about 3 000 small-scale rural farmers.
One of the criteria for selecting this area for research is its close proximity to the Mbongolwane wetland, which is 395 ha in extent and 12 km long. The wetland contains a high biodiversity conservation value and plays an important part in the area by trapping sediments, regulating water flow and creating a habitat for aquatic species.
The wetland also contributes to the socioeconomics of Ntumeni, a natural habitat for ikhwane, a plant which locals use for the production of handicrafts for sale.
“Water security and supply are the key elements required for South Africa to achieve the economic growth targets set by government,” says WWF Living Waters partnership acting head Aaniyah Omardien. “Dealing with water scarcity should be at the heart of economic development planning, which means putting extra effort into increasing water efficiency and securing our water supplies.”
As the project leader, Sasa’s South African Sugarcane Research Institute (Sasri) has been involved in the technical and financial management aspects of the project.
Sasri has carried out monthly training interventions with grower representatives to demonstrate BMPs, with a focus on planting, weed control, soil nutrition and harvesting.
The introduction of BMPs requires information and an understanding of the social context, current land use activities and the attitudes and ambitions of the small-scale growers and other community stakeholders.
The outcome of the studies conducted in this project will be used to develop recom- mendations to roll out an approach for improved uptake of BMPs to all other small-scale grower areas.