"Making land work for rural people"
FSG was established in 1985 in the Department of Plant Pathology of the, then, University of Natal, with the aim of making relevant scientific knowledge available to smallholder farmers. It now conducts action research to address issues pertinent to resource-constrained farmers. It also provides training, advice and project support in sustainable farming (including agroecology), nature conservation, strengthening local institutions, and enterprise development. Training is provided to development practitioners and students in participatory approaches to research and extension. Community members and other partner service providers, including government extension staff and scientists participate in designing and implementation of projects.
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The FSG is conscious of the challenge to alleviate food insecurity and poverty in the previously disadvantaged smallholder farming sector in South Africa, with a major focus on women and the youths. Most communal areas in South Africa face severe land degradation, unemployment, low income, and high prevalence of HIV/AIDS and its associated impact on livelihoods. Most of these challenges are rooted in the legacy of the apartheid era when agricultural production and food self-sufficiency were systematically undermined in favour of formal employment. The smallholder farming system has many facets – human, financial, social, natural, physical, etc. – that interact and need to be considered in devising any interventions. The appropriate methods for addressing these challenges in a South African context are only beginning to emerge now in the development community.
New Publication by Dr Maxwell Mudhara and Colleagues
It is increasingly recognized that land can be managed most sustainably through involving local communities. This book highlights the potential of a new methodology of uncovering and stimulating community initiatives in sustainable land management in Africa.
Analyses of four contrasting African countries (Ghana, Morocco, South Africa and Uganda) show that as communities directly face the challenges of land degradation, they are likely to develop initiatives themselves in terms of sustainable land management. These initiatives (or ‘innovations’) may be more appropriate and sustainable than those emanating from research stations located far from the communities. The book describes the rationale of the approach used, the set of steps followed, how the project managed to engage the communities to understand the importance of the activities they were undertaking, and how they were stimulated to improve and extend their initiatives and innovativeness.
Examples covered include soil fertility, community forestry, afforestation, water, invasive species and grazing land management. Central to the book is the way communities, and scientists, interacted between the four countries and learnt from each other. The book also shows how the initiatives were outscaled locally.