Water Security and Rural Household Food Security: Empirical Evidence from the Mzinyathi District in South Africa
This paper aimed to investigate the determinants of
water security in an irrigation scheme, and how this water
security level subsequently affects the farmer’s household
food security level. Water security refers to access by the
irrigating households to sufficient and reliable water to meet
the agricultural needs and their ability to assert the water rights
against other parties. A random sample of 185 irrigating
households was interviewed in Tugela Ferry Irrigation
Scheme in Mzinyathi District, South Africa. Data were
analysed using principal component analysis and ordinary
least squares. The empirical results indicated that factors such
as farmer’s age, off-farm income, farmer association membership,
use of pumps, location on the upper-end of the canal and
training increase householdwater security. Conversely, factors
such as occurrence of conflicts and location at the tail-end of
the canal were found to decrease household water security.
This study highlights the importance of strengthening farmer
organisational capacity and local institutions for enhancing the
water security status of farmers in smallholder irrigation
schemes. The results also indicated that perceived water security
has a positive impact on household food consumption per
adult equivalent. Therefore, for better impact on household
food security, the study recommends that priority should be
placed in ensuring household water security, not just investing
in the physical irrigation scheme and irrigation participation.
The human and social dimensions need to receive priority.
Training farmers in collective water governance and water
conservation techniques to improve water-use efficiency as
well as introducing motorised pumps would take irrigators a
long way in enhancing their water security.