Print version ISSN 0018-229X
VISSER, Karen and DU PISANI, Kobus. The establishment of the Skanskop Island irrigation settlement as a milestone in poverty relief through personal initiative. Historia [online]. 2012, vol.57, n.1, pp. 105-126. ISSN 0018-229X.
Skanskop Island is one of the irrigation settlements established in the early part of the twentieth century along the Lower Orange River (today the Gariep River) with the aim to help relieve the poor white problem. After the investigation of the Carnegie Commission and the Kimberley Congress dealing with poverty among whites, both the state and the church adopted an approach in the 1930s of giving only limited support to poor agricultural communities to stimulate them to improve their position through self-activity. If they succeeded in becoming successful agricultural producers, they would also make a contribution to the national economy and the development of the region. Although the first settlers at Skanskop received only minimal support from the state and possessed limited resources, most of them were successfully settled on the land. Driven by the will to provide for themselves and their families, they were prepared to perform hard physical labour. They utilised the simple techniques and technologies available to them to "tame" nature and to prepare the fertile soil for production. This article sketches the historical background of the establishment of the Skanskop Island settlement, describes the laborious processes through which the land was prepared for production, and evaluates the efforts of the settlers to lift themselves and their offspring from a state of poverty to become independent producers.
Keywords : agricultural development; irrigation schemes; land cultivation methods; Lower Orange (Gariep) River; poor white problem; poverty relief; Skanskop Island.