African Journal of
Agricultural Research

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Agric. Res.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1991-637X
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJAR
  • Start Year: 2006
  • Published Articles: 6800

Full Length Research Paper

Food insecurity of smallholder farming systems in B72A catchment in the Olifants River Basin, South Africa

Manuel S Magombeyi1* Sylvie Morardet2, Akpofure E Taigbenu1 and Christian Cheron3
  1School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Witwatersrand University, Private Bag X3 Wits, 2050. Republic of South Africa. 2UMR G-EAU Cemagref, 34196 Montpellier Cedex 05, France. 3International Water Management Institute, Southern Africa Office, Private Bag X 813, Silverton 0127, Republic of South Africa.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 11 July 2011
  •  Published: 31 January 2012



Traditional smallholder farming systems are characterized by low yields and high risks of crop failure and food insecurity. Through a biophysical model, PARCHED-THIRST and a socio-economic farming systems simulation model, OLYMPE, we evaluated the performance of farming practices based on maize yield, gross margin and total family balance over a 10-year period in semi-arid Olifants River Basin of South Africa. Farm profitability under scenarios of different maize productions, maize grain and fertiliser price variations were explored for the identified farming systems. Farm types (A to E) were identified from farm surveys, and validated with farmers and extension officers. The order of vulnerability to severe droughts and food insecurity, starting with the most vulnerable is farm Type B, C, D, A and E. Severe drought or flood shock resulted in highest  farm gross margin and total family balance reductions, partly due to loss of production for family consumption. Labour returns ranged from US$ 62/capita.year for crop-based farm types to US$ 363/capita.year for livestock-based farm Type E. Results revealed that livestock and crop diversification are most proficient strategies to ensure stable income and food security for smallholder farmers. Thus, smallholder farming technology innovations and policies should engage in solutions to poor yields and livestock farming.


Key words: Farming systems, food security, gross margin, simulation, vulnerability.