Various studies have being carried out to address the problems of rural poverty and agricultural development with mixed outcomes. While some of the proposed measures for increasing agricultural productivity and poverty alleviation have yielded some promising results, there is growing consensus on the need for a comprehensive approach which also looks at the institutional and socio-cultural environment as determinants of rural farm/households' livelihood. The paper aims at exploring the role of rural institutions in the adoption and sustainability of productivity-enhancing technologies among small-scale farmers using Thaba Nchu in the Free State, South Africa, as a case study. The paper attempts to explain an observed widespread adoption by small-scale farmers in Thaba Nchu in the Free State Province, of in-field rainwater harvesting (IRWH) techniques that was recently introduced in the area. This was achieved by using data from the experiences and observations of a multidisciplinary team consisting of agronomists, agricultural economists and sociologist from the University of the Free State (UFS) and Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and farmers from the area. The paper concludes that the participation of local farmers, particularly through local community groups, played important roles in achieving a more widespread adoption of IRWH techniques. This suggests that both formal and informal rural institutions can play important roles in ensuring acceptance of new production practices by small-scale farmers and these institutions should be included in the design of an effective agricultural extension program. Furthermore, institutional reform should be considered in policy interventions that promote poverty and food insecurity reduction.
Key words: Productivity-enhancing, Thaba Nchu, multidisciplinary, agronomists, socio-cultural.
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