Institutional dynamics in a small-scale organic farming organisation : the case of the Ezemvelo Farmers' Organisation
This study explores institutional dynamics within an organic farming organisation, the Ezemvelo Farmers' Organisation (EFO), based in uMbumbulu in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). The main objective of the study was to identify the institutional and governance factors that impact on the sustainability of the organic production programme of the EFO. A variety of research methods were employed, including a small sample survey of 50 households, in-depth interviews with key respondents, and a critical assessment of the existing literature on the EFO. The study established that many rural households in uMbumbulu maintain their livelihoods through a diverse array of activities that include social grants. Agriculture remains an important livelihood strategy for many households. It presents opportunities for income generation, access to food, job creation and increased asset accumulation. Communal land tenure systems do not constrain agricultural development, and kinship ties and social relations determine affordable and flexible land access for farming and residential use. The EFO initiave regenerated agricultural production in uMbumbulu. Many households have rights to cropping fields and these fields were revitalised and put under productive use as the organic farming initiative gained momentum. The EFO marketed its produce to Farmwise, a packhouse that distributes produce to various retailers. The agro-food industry is dominated by large business interests and maintained exploitative relations with the EFO. Organic production and marketing to such businesses imposed high transaction costs on members of the EFO as onerous quality standards were enforced throughout the value chain. Rural development interventions that are driven by external stakeholders such as academic institutions, government departments and other agencies tend not to provide sustainable solutions to help support the development of smallholder farmers. In the case of the EFO, such support saw abuses of power, elite capture, free-rider problems, conflict and weak management systems. The thesis argues that the agrarian transformation imperative means that policy frameworks must be re-examined, and adapted to the needs and local practices of smallholder farmers such as members of the EFO. Proper extension support that provides accurate market information, effective coordination of production and transport services, and relevant infrastructure, is also required.