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An evaluation of availability of traction power for tillage and its effects on food security of smallholder farmers’ households in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

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Agricultural input availability remains an impediment to poverty reduction and achievement of food security in Sub-Saharan African countries. Timely availability of traction power is important in crop production, yet its availability is limited among smallholder farmers due to capital constraints, location bias of government traction power programmes and relatively small landholding. The circumstances facing households influence their traction power choice. An understanding of the determinants of their choices and the effect of traction power availability on crop productivity as well as food security can allow policy makers to develop appropriate strategies and programmes to enhance the productivity of smallholder farmers. This study aimed to contribute to the literature in two ways. The first objective of this study was to determine the factors influencing choice of alternative traction power source for tillage. Secondly, the study sought to evaluate the effect of traction power availability on maize productivity as well as household food security. The study focused on six villages from Okhahlamba Local Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. A Multistage probability sampling was used to select villages and households, whereby 207 households were surveyed. The study identified three main groups of tillage categories that smallholder farmers use, i.e., tractor, animal power, and a combination of the two sources. The multinomial regression results identified household characteristics significantly influencing the choice of traction power source for tillage. The results from Cobb-Douglass production function and multinomial endogenous treatment effect model show that traction power availability affects maize productivity as well as food security. Using animal power and a combination of mechanical and animal power showed a positive effect on maize productivity as well as food security. The results suggest that the policies and programmes affecting traction power availability directly or indirectly through ownership, hire or government services should be improved as they affect crop productivity and food security. Also, there is need to enforce gender equity strategies in rural areas to ensure equal access to inputs and participation in government programmes. There is also a need to consider the introduction of tillage power suitable for the relatively small land sizes that smallholder farmers operate.


Master of Science in Agricultural Economics. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2017.