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Cycle 6 (2017 Deadline)

Water security and social-hydrological resilience for rural small-scale crop value chains

PI: Marizvikuru Manjoro neé Mwale,, University of Venda
U.S. Partner: Brian Chaffin, University of Montana, Missoula
Project Dates: March 2018- February 2021

Project Overview

This study proposes a value-chain approach to answer important research questions for sustainable agriculture, food and water security, and social-hydrological resilience. How can we secure scarce water resources along rural small-scale crop farming value chains at a river basin scale? How can we promote water security that supports small-scale agricultural productivity? How can we improve access to appropriate quantity and quality of water to ensure food security and social-hydrological resilience?

To answer these questions, the PI and her team will take three distinct approaches. The initial phase of the project will involve a detailed literature review on agricultural water use, security, productivity and footprinting. The review will seek to document the potential benefits of understanding water utilization by rural small-scale crops in South Africa and the broader region. This initial phase of the proposed research will also contribute to the identification of suitable sites and suitable crops to be evaluated. In the second phase, the researchers will apply the value-chain analysis framework to assess water use in the production, post-harvest handling, and consumption of selected crops in the Limpopo and Zambezi River Basins.

Value-chain mapping will also be used to identify and characterize actors and their linkages, from the producer to the final consumer. Comparison of variations of water use values for selected smallholder crops will be carried out, complemented by data from the value-chain mapping exercise. The team will use participatory rural appraisals to generate sufficient data for the value chain mapping.

The third phase of the study will involve the process of estimating the water footprint for selected crops within the Limpopo and Zambezi River Basins. The focus will be on the production stage, that is, the cultivation of the agricultural crops from planting to harvesting, during the 1990-2017 period.

The team will compare the water footprint for crops grown in both the Limpopo Basin and the Zambezi Basin to produce regional data sets that can inform policy. The proposed water footprinting exercise will provide information that is useful for post-harvest applications, as well.

Summary of Recent Events

In this reporting period, the PEER team continued to train and mentor students at both University of Venda and Independent Institute of Education MSA (IIE MSA) in applied research, outreach methods, and data analysis. Due to the prevailing COVID-19 situation, no major data collection exercises were conducted. However, ongoing analysis of data and drafting of research reports continued under conditions of lockdown. Other students who managed to register this year were mentored on how to develop their research proposals. The team is still in the processing of developing synthesis reports that will culminate into the first interim project report.

The authorities of the two institutions finally signed the MOU between the University of Venda and IIE MSA to formalize the research work. This was delayed by the name change of Monash South Africa to IIE MSA. Several other events have been either postponed or cancelled due to the impact of COVID-19. These include the conference on water security in the small-scale agricultural sector that was to be held in April/May 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa, as well as the INSAKA Conference on Social-Ecological Systems that was to be held in May 2020 in Zambia.

The team at the University of Venda initiated incorporation of information into the two modules of the Honors Program curriculum based on lessons learned from the project. The modules are Research Methods and Institutions for Rural Development. The initiated process will go through the university system for approval since only 30% of the curriculum will be changed. The recruitment of students was significantly delayed due to the mismatch between the calendars of the project and educational institutions that offer qualifications to the students upon completion of their courses. Institutional systems keep affecting researchers when they want to embark on project activities.

In the next quarter, the project team will be devising new ways of collecting data and training farmers for the protection and safety of team members and research participants since the COVID-19 pandemic is still on the increase and may not disappear soon. They will also resume plans for the conferences that had to be canceled.

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