Smallholder Systems Innovations

SSI Basins

The SSI Program focuses its research in TWO river basins in Southern Africa, representing typical semi-arid to dry sub-humid climates. These are the Thukela river basin in South Africa and the Pangani river basin in Tanzania.

Thukela River Basin

The Thukela river is a principal river of KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa and is ranked as the largest river by volume in the country.

It is a physiographically, climatologically, hydrologically and socio-economically diverse watershed on the east coast of the country. The watershed is characterised by a juxtaposition of "first world" commercial agriculture and industrial economies and "third world" impoverished communities dependent upon subsistence farming in degraded areas.

The Potsheni Catchment in the upper reaches of the Thukela is the pilot study area for SSI research. The ARC (Agricultural Research Council) has set-up an experimental demonstration farm where trials are carried out together with farmers of soil Best Management Practices (BMP) for dry land agriculture. Together with ARC, SSI will monitor crop production improvement, soil erosion control and the water balance at the trial sites. An added element to the research will be livestock and grazing, which is strongly present in the farming system in the Emmaus catchment.

Pangani River Basin

The Pangani River Basin is one of nine drainage basins in Tanzania.

It extends from the northern highlands to the north-eastern coast of the country. The hydrology of the Pangani is highly influenced by rivers rising from the mountains and highlands (Kilimanjaro, Meru and Pare Mountains).The Makanya watershed is the pilot catchment for the SSI research. It is located in the South Pare Mountains in the mid-reaches of the Pangani River Basin.

It represents typical semi-arid to dry sub-humid rainfed agrarian conditions, and manifests strong signs of human induced land degradation due to high pressure on soil and water resources. Land use changes upstream are affecting hydrology downstream and cause erosion.

The SUA team has a long track-record of research in the Makanya watershed, focussing on soil and water management and participatory rural development.Farmers in the Makanya watershed use different types of water systems innovations mainly runoff diversion, storage reservoirs (ndivas), charco-dams (lambos) and tie-ridges.