I supervised Kyle Brand for his final BTech: Industrial Design mini-dissertation project in 2010. Small-scale farmers face many problems in South Africa and development in this area of food production is very important to alleviate poverty. This project was approached with no preconceived idea of a specific problem, but rather a method to identify a problem with the assistance of the farmers. The methodology used was participatory action research, and more specifically user-centred design.
The location and user group for this project was a farming collective know as Rainbow Nation Farmers. They are a non-profit community-based project in the Nancefield area South of Johannesburg. This collective had 28 committed farmers with 249 household dependants. They use about 6 hectares of land divided among the farmers. The produce is then sold locally in the area and to markets in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg
The project started by attempting to identify poignant problems which the farmers faced. To achieve this individual interviews, group discussions and general observations were undertaken. A recurring theme of frost and hail damage to crops was apparent and therefore collectively decided as the focus of the design intervention.
Large commercial farming tunnels solve the season problem of frost and hail for large-scale farming but this is economically out of reach of most small-scale farmers. The design intervention was therefore conceptualised as a small tunnel like system for covering the crops. It needed to be completely modular so that it could be expanded at a later stage (as the farmers develop their farms). It needed to be low-cost (affordable within the income bracket of small-scale farmers). It should rely on resources available to small-scale farmers. It should optimise the use of materials for cost and environmental considerations. It needed to be easy to use and simple to assemble (taking into consideration literacy levels).
For the summary document of the project please download here (2Mb).