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.

The project has investigated different agroforestry systems including silvopastoral systems, alley cropping and improved fallows. A number of students from University of KwaZulu-Natal have worked on the project, using the research findings for their studies, namely Misheck Musokwa (MSc and PhD), Thabo Makhubedu (PhD) and Brigid Letty (PhD).

Mr Mkhize (a farmer from Highflats) discussing the agroforestry trials With Zanele Shezi (INR) and Thabo Makhubedu (UKZN) at a farmers day at Wartburg in March 2018
Misheck Musokwa and Thabo Makhubedu - UKZN students working on the agroforestry trials funded by the WRC

The research has looked at the productivity of the different systems, also considering cost-benefit analyses. In addition, the water use of the different systems has been investigated using a combination of soil water instruments and modelling. The practical findings of the study will also be consolidated in guidelines for extension officers, which will provide information about establishing, managing and using agroforestry systems.

Rabbit Project in Ixopo

A small project to experiment with keeping rabbits for meat has been initiated in Ixopo (eMazabekweni village) with two women farmers, who are also participating as community researchers for the agroforestry project.

The main aim of the project is generate income from selling rabbits to neighbouring farmers and to formal markets. One farmer attended a one week training to learn about rabbits farming at Future Farmers Organisation. After the training the farmers with support from the INR agriculture team initiated the project in their homes and were each provided with a pair of New Zealand White breed and cages. The rabbits are fed pigeon pea leaves vegetable leaves, kikuyu grass, and amaranthus. The emphasis is on feeding the rabbits with locally available feed sources.  Pigeon pea is one of the tree species which has been tested through the agroforestry project for fodder production. The feeding of rabbits with pigeon pea leaf material project could present a great opportunity to popularize agroforestry to other farmers who are keen on rabbit farming.

Rabbit manure is also collected and used to grow vegetables by the two experimenting farmers. The INR’s Agriculture and Rural Livelihoods team has in the past implemented participatory innovation and development (PID) projects aimed at documenting, promoting and sharing farmer innovations and farmers experiences with rabbits are also documented through the application of the PID approach. Such experiences and lessons will be shared with other farmers.