Agriculture and Rural Livelihoods

Agriculture is the cornerstone of human survival. Farmers use skills and knowledge of natural resources to grow food and support their livelihoods. The choices we make in how we grow food can either contribute to sustainable development or erode our natural and human capital.

Finding better ways of growing food is critical for our future on this planet. We acknowledge that agriculture in rural landscapes is one element of a range of interlinked strategies to sustain rural livelihoods. Recognising these interlinked strategies, the agriculture and rural livelihoods theme adopts an holistic view in supporting rural livelihoods, considering the full range of livelihood options that can support people.

The aim of the Agriculture and Rural Livelihoods theme is to support sustainable agricultural development that optimises the use of available resources and contributes to social and economic sustainability. We recognise that supporting rural livelihoods should not only address technical challenges, but be aware of the social context in which livelihood decisions are made and be sensitive to the institutional challenges associated with agriculture and rural livelihood development.

ServicesAgriculture, livelihood and natural systems analysis

  • Business planning and development strategies for sustainable agriculture and livelihoods
  • Strategy and policy development
  • Applied research in climate- and water-smart agricultural systems
  • Value addition, market and value chain development
  • Farm business planning

Our focus areas are:

  • Water efficient production systems
  • Integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Landscape restoration planning and implementation.

Current Projects

The Institute is currently involved in various projects across the country. Please view list below for more information.

In the field 70

Water use of agroforestry systems for food and forage production

This research project started in 2016 and will be completed in March 2020. The overall aims of the project are to develop agroforestry systems that make effective use of available water and improve livelihoods. The project has combined formal research trials at Empangeni (Owen Sithole College of Agriculture) and Wartburg (Fountainhill Estate) with on-farm trials with smallholders at Zwelisha, Bergville and at Highflats.

Development of a National Rainwater Harvesting Strategy for South Africa

Our constitution and National Water Act recognize that everyone has a right to basic water supply and sanitation. Given our water scarcity and challenges in delivering water services, in particular to rural areas, it is necessary to consider all options available to ensure all South Africans have access to sufficient water. One of these options is Rainwater Harvesting (RWH).

Agroforestry Strategy Framework for South Africa

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries recognises the value in testing and implementing new and innovative land use systems, one of which is Agroforestry. Agroforestry is a land use system that includes the use of woody perennials and agricultural crops and / or animals in combination to achieve beneficial ecological and economic interactions for food, fibre and livestock production. 

Study to Develop a Value Chain Strategy for the Growth and Development of Organic Agriculture in South Africa

As consumers become more aware of the impact their decisions make on our environment, they are increasingly making responsible choices. One of these is organically produced food and related products. Organic farming is commonly recognised as a farming system that excludes the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and also manages the production system holistically based on sound social and ecological principles.

Review of Entrepreneurial Development Paths for Establishment of Smallholder Irrigation Farming Businesses

A number of studies have been conducted on behalf of the Water Research Commission (WRC) in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Limpopo that have sought to understand the challenges that smallholder irrigation farmers face, and to identify mechanisms to improve their water use efficiency as well as their participation in value chains.

Nuffic Elangeni TVET Project

This is a new initiative in which INR is involved, which builds on previous support provided to the Netherlands Embassy in Pretoria. The project is called Strengthening Education and Agribusiness interaction for sustained employment and agricultural Development in South Africa (SEAD) and is funded by the Dutch organization Nuffic and this is part of the Orange Knowledge Programme.

Sub-regional Coordinator for Eastern and Southern African PROLINNOVA Platform (ESAPP)

The INR was formally responsible for the coordination of the Prolinnova network in South Africa from 2004 to 2010, but Brigid Letty has continued to play an informal role of coordinator since then. Prolinnova is an international network that Promotes Local innovation in ecologically-oriented agriculture and natural resources management. 

Agro-Ecology: Investigating Micro-catchment Rainwater Harvesting and Conservation

The INR is currently involved in the implementation of a Water Research Commission (WRC) funded project investigating Micro-catchment (in-field) Rainwater Harvesting and Conservation. The INR agro-ecology team is implementing this research in the Eastern Cape (Tsolo) and in KwaZulu-Natal (Msinga).

Increasing resilience to water-related risks in the UK fresh fruit and vegetable system

We are exploring ways of increasing resilience to water-related risks for both UK-grown and imported fruit and vegetables.  This is one of ten projects forming a research programme investing in the Resilience of the UK Food System in a Global Context, funded by the Global Food Security Programme .

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