"Making land work for rural people"

The Farmer Support Group (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.

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.