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The impacts of drought on the rural communities of Msinga in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

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Drought is viewed as an important feature of climate change that results in extended periods of dryness, increasing temperatures and heatwaves. Additionally, drought is an extreme event in the hydrological cycle, and it is considered to be one of the most detrimental natural disasters occurring around the world. With the increasing impacts of climate change and anthropogenic activities, the seriousness and frequency of drought is expected to rise in the upcoming decades. Furthermore, a drought is defined as a period of below-average precipitation which results in drier than normal conditions. Globally, droughts are viewed as one of the most distressing natural disasters, which affects food production, water resources, biodiversity and livelihoods. Approximately, 1.5 billion people have been directly impacted by drought this century, whilst every year an estimated 55 million people are affected around the world (Harvey, 2021 & WHO, 2021). Droughts are a key feature of South African climatic conditions, because of its topography, location and below average rainfall. In 2015/2016, South Africa had experienced one of the worst droughts in 30 years because of the extreme weather system, El Nino. The South African drought had resulted in threatened livelihoods, water shortages, loss of agricultural production and increased food prices. Additionally, drought is one of the most difficult challenges affecting developing countries, with the most detrimental effects being felt by rural communities and subsistence farmers, since they mainly rely on rain-fed agriculture. The main aim of this study is to determine the impacts of drought on the rural communities of Msinga in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The objectives for this study are to determine the socio-economic impacts of drought, to examine the perceived seriousness and frequency of drought and to investigate the adaptation strategies of drought. This research study also focuses on a theoretical framework. It discusses the sustainable livelihoods approach and the drought perception theory. The SLA assumes that all individuals have assets and abilities that can improve their livelihoods, whilst the drought perception theory discusses how farmers perceive drought based on four elements. The data obtained for this research study is archival data that was collected in June 2019 till August 2019 at the Msinga Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. However, this research project was conducted over a period of three years during 2020 – 2022. The data that was used for this project was collected using a quantitative research method. Additionally, the collection of data was conducted using a purposive sampling method, which is utilised when the researcher uses their own judgement to choose a group of participants that requires the people with the most characteristics based on their relevance to the research study. From the Msinga region – 180 respondents were chosen. Furthermore, the tools that were used in this study included a questionnaire which provided a deeper understanding of the community dynamics. Questionnaires are a research tool that consists of a series of questions that aim to collect data from a respondent. Furthermore, to analyse the data that was collected, a programme called Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) was used. Data from the completed questionnaires were entered onto the SPSS programme. The demographic results have indicated that majority of residents within the Msinga Municipality were female, with a large portion of the surveyed population being single. The age distribution was disproportionate, with the older generation being the majority and the working-class population being the minority. The findings also showed a high level of uneducated residents, with majority of the population being unemployed and relying on social grants. The socio-economic impacts of droughts were also discussed, with the results showing high levels of malnutrition, food insecurity, limited food choices, crop failure, unemployment and poverty. The findings also presented adaptation and mitigation measures for dealing with drought, as well as strategies based on indigenous knowledge. The results also showed the different types of water that respondents used for irrigational purposes, as well as the perceived seriousness and frequency of droughts. Additionally, the results presented the percentages of respondents that received agricultural training and assistance from the government during a drought. It also discussed early warning systems and drought management programmes within the area. This project also presents some recommendations based on the results in the study. These included; women empowerment, environmental education, sustainable agricultural practices and governmental involvement and interventions.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.