Food Security

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 483–499 | Cite as

Water security and rural household food security: empirical evidence from the Mzinyathi district in South Africa

  • Sikhulumile Sinyolo
  • Maxwell Mudhara
  • Edilegnaw Wale
Original Paper


This paper aimed to investigate the determinants of water security in an irrigation scheme, and how this water security level subsequently affects the farmer’s household food security level. Water security refers to access by the irrigating households to sufficient and reliable water to meet the agricultural needs and their ability to assert the water rights against other parties. A random sample of 185 irrigating households was interviewed in Tugela Ferry Irrigation Scheme in Mzinyathi District, South Africa. Data were analysed using principal component analysis and ordinary least squares. The empirical results indicated that factors such as farmer’s age, off-farm income, farmer association membership, use of pumps, location on the upper-end of the canal and training increase household water security. Conversely, factors such as occurrence of conflicts and location at the tail-end of the canal were found to decrease household water security. This study highlights the importance of strengthening farmer organisational capacity and local institutions for enhancing the water security status of farmers in smallholder irrigation schemes. The results also indicated that perceived water security has a positive impact on household food consumption per adult equivalent. Therefore, for better impact on household food security, the study recommends that priority should be placed in ensuring household water security, not just investing in the physical irrigation scheme and irrigation participation. The human and social dimensions need to receive priority. Training farmers in collective water governance and water conservation techniques to improve water-use efficiency as well as introducing motorised pumps would take irrigators a long way in enhancing their water security.


Household food security Water security index Principal components analysis Smallholder irrigation South Africa 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and International Society for Plant Pathology 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sikhulumile Sinyolo
    • 1
  • Maxwell Mudhara
    • 1
  • Edilegnaw Wale
    • 1
  1. 1.Discipline of Agricultural Economics, School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalPietermaritzburgSouth Africa

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