Gatekeepers of food and nutritional security projects in South Africa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The objective was to investigate the role of traditional leaders in the implementation of food security projects in South Africa. Design/Methodology: A qualitative, phenomenological approach was used as a research design. A purposive sample of seven individuals was selected representing the community, extension agents, and researchers. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted. Data triangulation was used to establish trustworthiness by using multiple sources of information. Findings: Four main themes with a series of sub-themes emerged in this study (chief/chiefdom; community reality; chief approval; chief´s support). Practical Implications: Chiefs play a pivotal role in the success of food security interventions. Extension agents and researchers aiming to work in rural South Africa must follow a sequential process to gain the favor of the chief and their support in their interventions. By building trust, upholding protocol, and involving the community, extension agents and researchers can gain and maintain the chief's approval and support. This leads to the complete support of the community and, consequently, the success of the intervention. Theoretical Implications: This study is based on UNICEF's conceptual framework of malnutrition. The model is widely used to address malnutrition and recognizes sociocultural practices as a basic cause of malnutrition. Authors were able to find that traditional leaders may positively or negatively impact food security outcomes and project success in rural South Africa. Originality/Value: Limited information is available regarding the implications of traditional leadership structures within the context of food security.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-480
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Agricultural Education and Extension
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021


  • Traditional leadership
  • chiefdom
  • community development
  • extension
  • food security
  • project success


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