Farmers, be warned. Climate experts believe Southern Africa is likely to heat up at a relatively greater proportional rate than other regions across the globe.
In a hard-hitting piece about what South African farmers can expect in the immediate future, Roland Hunter, technical project manager at the African Climate Development Initiative tells Food For Mzansi that climate change will cause temperatures to increase globally but South Africa will be impacted disproportionately more.
Professor Stephanie Midgley, a researcher and project manager in agriculture, food security and climate change, adds that temperatures in coastal areas will likely rise by about one or one and a half degrees Celsius, while our inland areas could increase by a staggering average of three or four degrees.
The change to our rainfall is much harder to predict. Local and IPCC models show that the western part of South Africa, our winter rainfall area, will get drier. Some parts in the southern Cape and summer rainfall areas might get wetter. “Rainfall will become more variable,” Hunter says. Well-established rainfall patterns will be disrupted.”
Together, the two experts unpack how Mzansi’s grasslands and maize-planting areas will likely contract and what areas are of particular concern. They also unpack mitigation strategies and reasons for hope.
Read the full story here: The climate is changing. Can we?
‘Farm in harmony with nature to ensure food democracy’
All agricultural processes are natural. The point of agricultural development should not be the exclusion of nature in our farming systems, but the selective incorporation and blending of natural processes with science, art and ingenuity, says Dr Naudé Malan, senior lecturer at the University of Johannesburg and founder of iZindaba Zokudla, a Soweto-based farmers’ lab.
Among the benefits, will be the elimination of long and money-leaching value chains. “Farmers are under the yoke of a food system that buys food in local areas, processes it in distant pack houses, and ships the same or similar products back to the local area. This is why farmers are poorer than food retailers and processors.”
Malan suggests using technology only to enhance nature. “A high-technology agro-ecology could combine the best of the natural and the scientific world and lead to a new revolution in agriculture. This will not only feed us, but protect the ability of Earth to feed us forever into the future.”
Regenerative agriculture ‘turns soils into sponges’
While farmers deal with repeat problems such as soil erosion due to heavy rains, experts urge them to adopt regenerative agriculture practices to build healthier, more sponge-like soils.
“Something that we have to face head-on is that the conventional practice of agriculture, where people are ploughing deep and leaving the soil bare, is causing a lot of topsoil to be eroded,” says Dr Jack Armour, operations manager of Free State Agriculture. “Topsoil washed away… is a loss for agriculture for the next 100 generations.”
His sentiments are echoed by Andrew Ardington, founder of the Regenerative Agriculture Association of South Africa. “I am very much in favour of us all farming regeneratively,” he says. “One of the benefits is that the soil can hold much more water, and that water can infiltrate very quickly into the soil.
Ardington says the first step is simply to overcome the fear of change.
Permaculture: 12 principles to farm like Mother Nature
Permaculture principles can enable farmers to design food production systems that are robust, resilient, self-sustaining and ecologically sustainable, says Delwyn Pillay, full-time volunteer and activist for Greenpeace Africa, and an ecologist at heart.
“Sadly, these self-sustaining farming practices were discouraged and replaced in favour of industrialised farming to supply the global food market. We have seen severe environmental problems such as ecosystem collapse and health consequences as a result of this transition to more concentrated and mechanised agriculture,” he says.
Part of the answer lies in permaculture and regenerative agriculture, says Andrew Ardington, founder of the Regenerative Agriculture Association of South Africa. “At the core it looks at two things, first the care of the soil and, secondly, working with rather than against nature.”
Both Pillay and Ardington share the principles farmers can follow.
‘Soil health can save us all’ – World Food Prize winner
Perhaps the greatest hope for a more sustainable future lies underfoot: our planet’s soil, writes Rattan Lal, the winner of the 2020 World Food Prize. He says soil health is not only at the foundation of our food systems but it is also essential to our collective well-being, food security, and environmental stability including climate, water, and biodiversity.
His bold ambition is to work side-by-side with farmers – especially smallholder farmers who produce much of the world’s food – to put soil health squarely back at the centre of the farm.
He lists a few ways through which farmers can improve soil health.
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