UKZN’s Farmer Support Group (FSG) hosted the second in a series of webinars as part of a European Union (EU) co-funded project that is leveraging partnerships to raise new climate change initiatives and champions.
The FSG is an outreach arm of UKZN working with smallholder farmers and farmer cooperatives in communal areas in KwaZulu-Natal. It is one of five implementing organisations in a four-year project that began in March 2021. Other consortium members are the Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA) as hosts of the Land Network National Engagement Strategy, Indigo Development and Change, the Institute for Natural Resources and Heifer Project South Africa.
These organisations are strengthening the capacity of civil society organisations (CSO) to develop a united and cohesive national civil society strategy to address climate change impacts on the land tenure and farming systems of small-scale farmers in South Africa.
At the webinar, Mr Tom Lebert from coordinating partner AFRA welcomed guests and introduced the project. Project objectives included ensuring that CSOs in land and agriculture comprehend the causes of climate change and its impacts on small-scale farmers, women and youth. Partners also seek to identify, strengthen and promote adaptation and mitigation strategies employed by small-scale farmers, and advocate for change in relevant policies to strengthen these strategies.
The consortium strengthens CSO networks for enhanced information sharing, input and engagement with policy processes and the Climate Justice Charter. The ultimate beneficiaries are South African small-scale farmers who will face the challenge of adapting to the impacts of climate change. Its activities include capacity building on climate change, youth learning exchanges, multi-stakeholder learning journeys, and action and policy research.
Mrs Avrashka Sahadeva, a Project Coordinator and Researcher at the FSG said the webinar would describe the effects of climate change on crop production, list the leading causes of climate change, and promote understanding of the difference between mitigation and adaptation. There was discussion of the risks and impacts of climate change on agricultural production and its effects on food security, and identification of local coping strategies.
Professor Paramu Mafongoya, South African Research Chair of Agronomy and Rural Development at UKZN gave a presentation on the implications of climate change on crop production and rural development using experience from his research. He outlined the importance of agriculture in Southern Africa, and described climate change and what trends are being observed, highlighting the significance of climatic variability and the contributions of agriculture to the phenomenon.
He also drew attention to South Africa’s contributions to greenhouse gas emissions that comprised half of the continent’s emissions.
Mafongoya discussed the temporal impacts of these changes on agriculture, touching on weather disruption, adaptation and mitigation measures, as well as the impacts of projected climate change on crop production.
Mafongoya also described studies that examined farmer perceptions of climate change, concluding that climate change would have a sobering effect on natural resource management and humanity’s long-term ability to feed itself.
Mr Bongumusa Mbatha, a senior facilitator at the FSG discussed the organisation’s work in climate change adaptation and mitigation with rural communities in the Msinga Local Municipality. He described two groups of farmers that the FSG worked with, beginning with the Nhlesi-Siyathuthuka garden group with whom the FSG conducted climate-smart sessions on soil and water management, conservation, soil fertility using organic manure, climate change awareness, and climate-neutral mitigation strategies. In KwaGuqa, the FSG worked with a group to achieve water conservation, conducting sessions on water conservation, soil fertility, changing irrigation patterns, and planting appropriate seasonal crops.
Upcoming webinars on the project’s findings and innovations around adaptation strategies with rural communities would be conducted between June 2022 and February 2023.
Words: Christine Cuénod