The Gauteng Climate Change Summit focused on sustainability and adaptability with experts calling for a more hands-on approach in dealing with climate impacts in the agricultural space. Collaboration was cited as the biggest factor that can help combat the challenges faced because of the changing weather patterns.
Gauteng department of agriculture and rural development MEC Mbali Hlophe said research and innovation were key in ensuring that Gauteng is tops in coming up with innovative ways of how to deal with climate change while continuing to produce food.
Come up with solutions
“Climate change is no longer something that we can see as a myth that we theorise and discuss in agriculture research. In reality, we see that things are affected by climate change and if you consider the flooding that took place in KwaZulu-Natal and other areas, we see that there is either a lot of flooding or a lot of droughts, and even seasons are becoming unpredictable.
“This summit is about making sure that everyone appreciates why there are so many changes and the impacts thereof,” said Hlophe.
Hlophe said she and her department are trying to localise the engagements about climate change as much as possible while appreciating the global efforts other countries are implementing. However, what matters more to her is finding a solution to local issues relating to climate change.
“We do not want to be just followers but also be part of the change that is taking place. We need to do it as Gauteng because we understand that we are very central in terms of industrialisation and we want to be able to address the impacts climate change has in water, agriculture, and environment but, importantly, to our communities.
“We do not have a lot of land mass but we are moving forward in adopting technology because we know that we are not like other provinces, so we need to utilise the little space that we have and use it to the maximum and technology has allowed us to do just that through hydroponic, vertical farming opportunities,” she added.
How small-scale farmers can survive
Water Research Commission executive manager Sylvester Mpandeli said climate change affects everyone and for small-scale farmers to survive, they will need to cultivate drought-tolerant crops and use less water.
“Mixed with drought-resistant crops, farmers can also diversify and plant different crops or integrate livestock and crops and grasslands.
“This will work for them, just in case something wrong takes place during drought, then they will be able to adapt. If they use a normal cropping system, they will experience a lot of challenges because the weather patterns have changed which means adaptability is the way to go to stay on the game,” he said.
Mpandeli said that it was important for farmers in Gauteng to consider doing peri-urban agriculture, which means making use of vertical farming systems that farmers can adopt to tackle space issues.
“You can have vertical farming in your flat and you allow your crops to grow vertically. Gauteng has the responsibility of driving urban farming initiatives in such a way that space is no longer an issue and production succeeds (is prevalent),” he added.
Mpandeli explained that all is not lost, however, it is time to rethink how to do things better as there are various opportunities that farmers could engage to reduce the negative impacts of climate change on their water supply, namely climate-smart agriculture.
“Commercial farmers have the responsibility to capacitate small-scale farmers if we want to take the agriculture sector to another level.
“I believe that collaboration between the two types of farmers is very important. They can also share technologies because one might find that they have second-hand technical devices that they are no longer using that they can share with small-scale farmers. If the agriculture sector is doing well, we will all be happy,” he said.
Going back to our roots
Professor Darlene Ajeet Miller from the Thabo Mbeki African School of Public and International Affairs highlighted the importance of community food gardens as a solution to climate change being the cause of less food production.
She referred to young men from Khayelitsha in the Western Cape who started a garden to empower other young men in their community. Because of them, she believes, they have been able to grasp the essence of combating climate change by cultivating indigenous plants.
“When there was a water crisis in the Western Cape, the garden survived because they had indigenous plants in that garden.
“Those plants knew how to hold nutrients in the soil and were resilient. When the water came back, the roots were healthy and the nutrients were there and the garden flourished immediately,” she said.
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