Graduate Passionate about Market Access for Small Farmers

Master of Agriculture in Food Security graduate, Mr Phiwokuhle Ndlovu had a desire to improve the livelihood of small farmers and this led him to focus his research on small farmer empowerment and access to markets for improved food security.

Ndlovu identified and explored factors influencing the level of vegetable value chain participation and implications on smallholder farming and food security in Swayimane, KwaZulu-Natal.The approach his study took was towards community-based participatory and translational research that also involved training and empowering smallholder farmers.

The training and empowerment processes were conducted to transform farmers to be market-orientated and to equip them with skills to conduct market assessments. His research also identified business linkages between farmers and market factors.

Ndlovu realised that smallholder farmers experienced constraints along the value chain that prevented them from accessing high-value markets to increase their income. His research introduced, initiated and tested the Smallholder Horticulture Empowerment and Promotion (SHEP) model for vegetable value chain development. The SHEP model has been successful in raising farmers’ income in Kenya and other African countries and Phiwokhule’s research aimed to introduce this model to smallholder farmers in Swayimane.

The SHEP model was implemented to assist smallholder farmers to be more competitive in the vegetable value chain, by offering training and skills development to empower them to be more market-orientated and commercialised.

Ndlovu’s research exposed weaknesses along the vegetable value chain that reduced the level of participation among farmers. ‘This is key to understanding what needs to be changed when developing value chain development interventions and policies,’ he said.

Ndlovu is a supporter of participatory research as, he says, it enables farmers to be active participants throughout a research process in which they are educated and empowered with skills they can use to alleviate poverty and improve their livelihoods.

‘I believe that the research we conduct as agricultural researchers should result in transformation for the farmers, and if there is no transformation, we have failed as researchers,’ he said.

He is grateful to his supervisor, Professor Joyce Chitja for the hand she offered throughout his studies. ‘Prof Chitja has developed my research skills and has played a very important role in my academic and research journey. Her guidance and supervision have got me to where I am today,’ he said. ‘I am also motivated by her accomplishments as a Black female researcher in South Africa and want to follow in her footsteps.’

Ndlovu, currently pursuing his PhD, says he unwinds by doing body-building exercises, swimming and spending time with family and friends.

Words: Nicole Chidzawo

Photograph: Supplied