Stellenbosch University Water Institute is working with small farmers in Lynedoch to co-create technologies that develop new business opportunities and value chains for their farming activities in Stellenbosch.

The DIVAGRI research project forms part of a European Union-funded project involving four other African countries: Ghana, Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique.

The technologies include a desalination greenhouse, an artificial wetland, a biogas digester, a mobile kiln, a biorefinery, a clay-based drip irrigation system and intercropping.

The technologies are being installed and piloted on Stellenbosch University’s Experimental Farm in Stellenbosch and will later be demonstrated on-site in Lynedoch where the small farmers are situated.

The various technologies form part of DIVAGRI’s aim of creating diverse revenue streams for farmers through a circular economy where waste materials are re-used and farming techniques like irrigation and intercropping are improved.

“The technologies exist already,” says Stellenbosch researcher Mr Henk Stander,” We are learning with the small-scale farmers how to adapt it to our local circumstances so that we can assist them to improve their current production as well as create additional sources of income”.

As part of the process, the University has developed a “community of practice” with a group of farmers in Lynedoch to meet regularly, share ideas and discuss challenges of the project

“This project is giving us the opportunity to address food security not only in our homes but throughout the world,” says Lynedoch farmer Mrs Jana Claassen. “It has already taught us about business administration and irrigation systems”.,

The University has also formed a “learning practice alliance” with interested stakeholders such as the National Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) and the Stellenbosch Municipality to work with the project team throughout the project period.

The LPA members will provide input on the work and play a key role in the long-term sustainability of the technologies and interventions. This includes co-developing training programs and knowledge sharing centres, and linking the work to a multi-national endeavour serving small farmers across the African continent.

DALRRD Economic Development, Trade and Marketing Co-operatives Enterprise Development District Manager, Mr Lungelo George who has been participating in the Learning Practice Alliance at Lynedoch, welcomed the project and said if enough land was available and the technologies were successful, the project had the potential to assist farmers in increasing production.

Picture above: 

Intercropping and drip irrigation experimental systems: At the University of Stellenbosch Welgevallen Experimental Farm in Stellenbosch, the DIVAGRI project has planted Pecan Trees in air pots.

greenhouse

Desalination Greenhouse:  This greenhouse system purifies salty water so that farmers can use it for crop production.