Adapting to the Impacts of Drought by Smallholder Farmers in Sekhukhune District in Limpopo Province, South Africa

  •  Sylvester Mpandeli    
  •  Edward Nesamvuni    
  •  Phokele Maponya    


Smallholder farmers have been affected by drought impacts for several years. Sekhukhune district is characterized by poor and unreliable rainfall, frequent droughts and periodic flooding most of the time. Due to low and unreliable rainfall the smallholder farmers in the Sekhukhune district are finding it difficult to obtain high crop yields. As result of unreliable rainfall the majority of the households in the district are food insecure. The drought impacts in the Sekhukhune district has affected smallholder farmers in different ways including economically, socially and the production. Sekhukhune district has been receiving lower rainfall due to the effects of high extreme climatic events, climate variability and change. The impact of lower rainfall has negative effects on the agricultural sector, resulting in decrease in agricultural activities, loss of livestock, shortage of drinking water, low yields and shortage of seeds for subsequent cultivation in the district. The lowest average annual rainfall recorded was 438 mm in 1992. Limpopo Province including the Sekhukhune district has been characterised by low rainfall and recurrent drought problems especially in 1981/1984, 1988/1989, 1991/92 and in the 2004 and these hinder agricultural production in the province. The majority of farmers in the Sekhukhune district in 1992 lost high volumes of crops and livestock due to shortages of water and because of drought problems during that year. It was highlighted by several experts that the drought impacts in the Sekhukhune district are not only affecting the crop and the livestock smallholders, it is also affecting the vegetation status in the district. The quality and status of vegetation can be severely impacted by drought periods. The combination of these factors, for example low rainfall, poor vegetation condition and a range of other constraints, heightened during droughts, unfortunately produces a range of additional stressors for farmers in the Sekhukhune district. Poor vegetation usually means poor grazing and therefore poor cattle condition. This can further translate into loss of livelihoods as poor cattle often receive poor market prices.

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