The aim of this study was to assess the contribution of irrigation to household food security, in comparison to dry-land farming. This study used both primary and secondary data to analyse the factors. The primary data was collected by using a pre-tested questionnaire administered to selected farmers in the study area. A probability sampling method (that is pure or simple random sampling technique) was used to select the respondents. From a total population of 3,236 small-scale irrigators in Vhembe District, 147 irrigation farmers were randomly selected while 43 dry-land farmers were selected adjacent to the selected irrigators. A logistic regression model was used to analyse the variables in the model, selected from factors identified by previous researchers that affect food security in rural areas. A comparison of the variables in the model was carried out between irrigators and dry-land farmers. The results obtained showed that the proportion of food secured households was higher among farmers who were on the irrigation projects (86.3%) compared to dry-land farmers (53.0%). From the analysis, irrigation and per capita aggregate production were found to have a positive influence on the probability of households being food secure. This means that the likelihood of food security increases when farmers increase agricultural output and have access to a piece of land on the irrigation project. The food security of households is also dependent on other factors such as household size and farm size. These two variables were found to have negative and significant effects on household food security. The implications of these findings are that the likelihood of a household being food secures decreases with an increase in household size and farm size. Water has obvious advantages in that it increases farmer’s yields, promotes diversified farming enhances household food security and increases household incomes. Farmers who are on irrigation projects are more likely to be food secure than dry-land farmers. With concerted support from government, and all stakeholders, food security can be enhanced at the household levels. In addition education and extension training are essential for farmers to adopt new technologies. The study suggests that households that need to be targeted for food aid are those with large families, without access to irrigation water, families with few assets, and those without access to agricultural land and implements.
Key words: Household food security, rural livelihood, smallholder irrigation, dry-land farming.
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