Smart farming fights climate change

 wine-farm---textThe Smart Agriculture for Climate Resilience programme is the first provincial climate change policy for agriculture in South Africa, and specifically focuses on food security. (Image: Darling Tourism Via Media Club South Africa)

A collaboration between the University of Cape Town and two provincial government department seeks to develop long-term resistance methods to climate change.

Western Cape agriculture plays an important role in South Africa’s economy in terms of job creation and socio-economic development, even while it is vulnerable to climate change.

The university and the departments of agriculture, and environmental affairs and development planning recognised that a strategic and co-ordinated approach was needed to develop long-term resilience to climate change. This could be done through climate-smart agriculture and by placing the sector on a clear pathway towards a green economy.

Their collaboration has brought about the Smart Agriculture for Climate Resilience programme. It is the first provincial climate change policy for agriculture in South Africa, and specifically focuses on food security. It promotes climate-smart agriculture.

SMART AGRICULTURE

The programme is tied to the Western Cape’s five-year provincial strategic plan and the strategic goals of the provincial department of agriculture. One of the key goals is to optimise the sustainable use of water and land resources to increase climate-smart agricultural production.

Collaborative planning and action within and between public and private sectors includes players such as organised agriculture and industry associations, farmers, agri-processors and agri-business, labour and civil society, and research and academic institutions.

According to the African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI), the project has achieved an understanding of expected climate risks as well as effects on and vulnerabilities in agriculture. It has established important linkages between resource sectors, water, energy and agricultural production. It has also shown that vulnerability is high across the sector.

The project’s framework to battle the harsh impact of climate change has been its biggest success so far. It has identified regions that have a milder climate and where climate change will not be as dramatic.

These may become the future centres of food production.

ADAPTING TO A CHANGING CLIMATE

The province has already shown it has the capacity to adapt, with local companies already providing energy-saving low-carbon solutions to farms and agri-businesses. Leading wine estates have installed energy-saving measures and systems for renewable energy generation.

The Fruit Look Project is a prime example of how the province is adapting. The project uses satellite images to help fruit farmers increase their irrigation efficiency. These solutions must be harnessed to stimulate innovation and technology transfer for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

It takes a strong spatial approach, and has created 23 spatial zones. This is because the risks and effects of climate change differ widely across the province. It is all dependent on climate, soils, vegetation and farming systems.

Through this project the western marginal grain zones such as the Rooi Karoo-Aurora, are expected to shift to livestock production. This zone will become hotter and drier. Some zones could benefit from mild warming and wetting, for example the southern GrootBrak-Plett zone.

According to the ACDI, the project proposes a focus on four strategic areas, with the aim to:

  1. Promote a climate-resilient low-carbon production system that is productive, competitive, equitable and ecologically sustainable.
  2. Strengthen effective climate disaster risk-reduction and management for agriculture.
  3. Strengthen monitoring, data and knowledge management and sharing, and lead strategic research for climate change and agriculture.
  4. Ensure good co-operative governance and joint planning for effective climate change response implementation for agriculture.

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