Sustainability of Rural Small-Scale Farmers Using a Thematic Content-Fed Analytic Hierarchy Process

Oratilwe Penwell Mokoena*, Thembelihle Sam Ntuli, Tshepo Ramarumo, Solly Matshonisa Seeletse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Small-scale dairy farming plays a pivotal role in the development of rural economies and has become a key source for job creation and poverty alleviation. However, the survival rate of these enterprises is compromised due to multifaceted challenges. As a result, the newly established or emerging small scale dairy businesses are not sustainable. The objective of this paper is to therefore investigate the determinants affecting sustainability of small-scale dairy enterprises and to develop a framework for failure minimization. The study used purposive snowball sampling techniques to invite small-scale dairy farmers (SSDFs) in Bojanala Platinum District, North West Province, South Africa. The data were analyzed using thematic content analysis (TCA) for factor derivation and ranked using the analytic hierarchy process (AHP). The study revealed the high cost of agricultural inputs, medication and electricity, followed by a lack of agricultural services, and unpredictable weather patterns due to climate change, which were regarded as priority factors proliferating high failure levels and unsustainability by the local farmers. Meanwhile, loadshedding and cattle theft were regarded as low priority factors affecting farming sustainability. The high level of failure in this industry diminishes the chances of farmers to obtain funding or credit; poorer farmers end up falling back into poverty as a consequence of market circumstances beyond their control. The paper concludes that small-scale dairy farming should be revised as part of a broader livelihood strategy by all stakeholders, while continuously pursuing alternative access points to achieve prosperous rural livelihoods, local market information and access, and risk optimization. With the prospects of future climate, geopolitical and environmental crisis, considering how local small-scale dairy farmers (SSDFs) react and use information technology is vital to their sustainability and providing policy relevant knowledge. Furthermore, the SSDFs should be exposed to agricultural funders in their localities, and also access to agricultural sector training authority (AGRISETA) services should be made available for local farmers to receive training for proposal writing to apply for funds.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11983
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • analytic hierarchy process
  • small-scale dairy farmers
  • sustainable dairy farming
  • thematic content analysis


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