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Breytenbach, K, 2011 –– The socio-ecological values that subsistence farmers place on their water-related ecosystem services in Koffykraal

Karin Breytenback (South Africa)

Karin BreytenbachKarin’s passion for this topic was ignited by her concern that subsistence farmers are food insecure. “They might not always consider sustainability and the socio-ecological values of their ecosystem services, particularly water, when they are thinking about obtaining food for the next day”.

There is no substitute for water, which is an essential substance to ensure the survival of humans, animal and plant life. The amount of usable water is decreasing rapidly and the effective and sustainable use of water is becoming increasingly important to ensure availability in the future (Molden, 2007).

Subsistence farmers make up a large proportion of the rural poor who live off the land (Morton, 2007; TEEB, 2008; Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005; Scholes & Biggs, 2004). They are directly dependent on nature and are the most affected when disasters such as droughts and flooding occur (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005).

The services that ecosystems provide them, ensure their livelihood and food security (Scholes & Biggs, 2004). These farmers are aware of the value of the water they use to grow food and rear livestock.

Key concepts investigated in this research include water, food security and subsistence farming, water related ecosystem services, resilience and adaptive capacity and traditional ecological knowledge. 

The objective of Karin’s research was to investigate the socio-ecological values that farmers, particularly subsistence farmers attach to their water related ecosystem services. The study was undertaken in a traditional Tswana Village called Koffykraal in the Groot Marico area of the North West Province, South Africa. Narrative stories were collected from subsistence farmers and analysed by means of thematic and content analyses.


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