, Volume 61, Issue 2, pp 191–196 | Cite as

A furrow runs through it: An example of sustainable traditional irrigation in Western Cape Province, South Africa

  • H. A. P. Smit
  • J. A. Jacobs


Water and water related matters are important issues in water scarce countries like the Republic of South Africa. This is especially true for the agricultural sector that relies heavily on the availability of water for irrigation to ensure a secure food supply. In South Africa, present day irrigation projects rely on government subsidies and are usually large undertakings beyond the reach of individuals or small communities. The sustainability of such large irrigation projects is still a matter of debate. A 100 years ago a different set of rules applied. Irrigation could only be achieved by hand-dug furrows that supplied water in relatively small quantities to small farming communities. This paper investigated such a small community, the Leeukloof farming community in the Western Cape Province of the Republic of South Africa. For the past 93 years this community has maintained a furrow that supplies water not only to farms bordering the Perdeberg River, which supplies the furrow with water, but also to farms not bordering the river. The authors try to reconstruct the changes in agricultural practices brought about by the furrow, methods of water extraction during each phase, as well as the development and role of the furrow system. The perception by the community of the necessity of this method of water extraction from the river system is also investigated.

agricultural practices farming community South Africa sustainability small scale irrigation water use Western Cape Outeniqua Mountains 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. A. P. Smit
    • 1
  • J. A. Jacobs
    • 1
  1. 1.Military Geography Subject GroupSchool for Geo-Spatial Studies and Information Systems, Faculty of Military Science, University of StellenboschSouth Africa (

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