Cape Critical Rivers: a multi-stakeholder approach to enhance sustainable water use and agricultural practices

2015 Finalist

The Western Cape region is predicted to suffer severely under future climate change. Many emerging farmers in the region are dependent on irrigation agriculture. Irrigation water use efficiency (IWUE) is therefore critical.

Project Description

In partnership with the Western Cape Department of Agriculture (WCDA), EWT has identified improved IWUE as a critical step towards ensuring the long term sustainability and success of these emerging farmer operations. The project involves an assessment of the current irrigation practices. Subsequently, opportunities for improving IWUE will be identified. Selected initiatives will then be implemented for a subsample of “case study” farms.

Project goal and impact

Although the project is novel for emerging farmers in the region, similar projects for large scale commercial farms have yielded up to 20% improvements in both IWUE and profitability.


The Western Cape Region is important as a global biodiversity hotspot. It is home to 10% of all South African fish species, including 5 endangered and 2 critically endangered species. The region is the national hub of the irrigated deciduous fruit and wine agricultural sectors, so implementing sustainable IWUE irrigation practices at the regional level will reduce the direct impact of water abstraction on this vulnerable freshwater system.


The South African Government has prioritized the expansion of land reclamation and emerging farmer programmes. The supply of water is a critical scarce input for the success of these programmes in arid regions. EWT’s project will assess the financial feasibility of implementing IWUE initiatives, by reducing costs and increasing productivity. These cost-saving practices will improve farmers’ resilience to environmental degradation and future water scarcity.


Although there is a need for expanding emerging farmer operations, failure rates can be as high as 95%. EWT has identified established emerging farmer operations which would greatly benefit from improved management systems, with a particular focus on their resource efficiency. Implementing improved IWUE initiatives will contribute towards sustainable operations, which will have a significant positive impact on these farmers’ livelihoods.

Participation of the communities

This project will involve intensive planning with the emerging and local farmer communities to ascertain their perspective on the importance of IWUE, and the major opportunities and barriers to improving IWUE. This participatory approach will mean that the project is armed with crucial information to ensure that the farmers’ interests, ideas and concerns are adequately addressed. The KPIs to be monitored will be developed in collaboration with the farmers.

Long-term viability

EWT will ensure that the outcomes of the project are relevant and in line with the interests and strategic objectives of all stakeholders by working closely with the local community, and the relevant government institutions throughout the process. Systems of information dissemination and training via established channels, such as WUAs, will leverage additional upscaling of the impacts of the IWUE initiatives.

Information about the organization

For over 40 years, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has acted to conserve threatened species and ecosystems by initiating research and conservation action programmes, implementing projects which mitigate threats facing species diversity, and supporting sustainable natural resource management.

Submitted by: 
Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT)
South Africa
Award year: 

Endangered Wildlife Trust
Ardeer Rd.
1609 Modderfontein
South Africa

Mrs. Bridget Corrigan, Programme Manager