Self-regulation and certification in the promotion of sustainabilty in the dairy industry: a case study of water use in the uMngeni River basin

2016-12-07T23:00:59Z (GMT) by Nyaradzo Nazare
The study sought to examine whether self-regulation and certification are being used, or could be used, to promote sustainable water use in the dairy industry in the uMngeni River basin. The study was based on the premise that individual and collective self-regulation and certification could be used to promote sustainable water use in the dairy industry of South Africa. The dairy industry in South Africa depends on irrigated pastures to sustain milk production and as a country which has low rainfall water availability poses a significant risk to the industry. Water, particularly in the context of this study, is a shared resource: for instance, when farmers experience constraints on supply, they have to share the available water. This raises the question: Could self-regulation and certification be tools to promote sustainable water use? The proposition in this study is that because certification signifies that a product (milk) and farming practice - water use in particular and sustainable farming in general - meet designated standards it could improve profitability, thereby motivating farmers to consider the introduction of a certification. The design of the study was qualitative. A case study approach was used and semi-structured interviews were used as the main data collection tool. The interviews involved 13 respondents from the dairy industry in the uMngeni River basin, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Based on the study, the results revealed that the farmers engage in collective self-regulation through organisations such as the Mooi River Irrigation Board and they have by-laws that require them to self-regulate their use of water as a collective and to monitor water abstractions. This enables the farmers and other water users to allocate water equitably amongst themselves (while exercising control as well), particularly in times of water stress, which, in turn, allows the farmers to remain productive. The study revealed that the farmers also practice individual self-regulation. The significance of individual self-regulation is that the farmers can reduce production costs and make their businesses more profitable. The farmers have reduced their production costs through use of technological innovations in water use. While there is self-regulation of water use in the dairy industry in the uMngeni River basin, certification for best farming practices does not exist and farmers do not feel pressured to engage in any certification schemes because they feel they already engage in good farming practices. The study further revealed that the dairy farmers actively engage in capacity building to improve efficiency in water use and farming practice. I argue that the approach to water use exhibited by the farmers in this study promotes resilience under conditions of water insecurity and challenging profit margins. Suggestions are made for research to further understanding the roles of self-regulation and certification in sustainable farming practice.