As the global debate around climate change mitigation intensifies, more and more people feel as if they need a Master’s in environmental science to understand the climate crisis and what it means for farmers.
In a conversation with Food For Mzansi, experts unpack what climate adaptability and climate-smart agricultural practices mean and the benefits of adopting these practices on the farm.
According to Sixolise Mcinga, soil scientist and senior analyst in sustainable agriculture at GreenCape, climate adaptability refers to adjustments in ecological, social or economic systems in response to climate change.
It refers to all those technologies that we want to adopt as a means to adapt to climate change. It involves a plethora of things, which includes changing what is causing the problem, reducing greenhouse emissions, and carbon dioxide and changing the behaviour to adapt to new climatic conditions.
“In the case of climate adaptability crops, it is crops that can adapt well under very stressful climatic conditions,” explains Mcinga.
When it comes to climate-smart agriculture, Mcinga explains that this refers to an integrated approach meant to manage or improve the productivity of crop lens, livestock, forests and sometimes fisheries.
A lot of focus and money are being geared towards research and developmental work around climate-smart agriculture.
“The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries did have a draft of climate change adaptability and mitigation plan which speaks to all of the adoption technology in response to the harsh effects on climate change, especially in the context of farmers,’ says Mcinga.
At the same time, interesting technologies are coming up, Mcinga points out. From solar-powered irrigation systems to solar-powered pack houses.
“What is even more interesting is that there is a lot of interest from farmers to move to smart agriculture, not just for the environmental aspect of it but also for the economic benefits that it provides.”
Thabile Nkunjana, an agricultural economist at the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC), explains that first-world countries have already adopted smart agricultural methods and are also trying to find other solutions to better their yields, whereas third-world countries are catching up.
Nkunjana says this is a contradiction, but also the reality of what is happening in and around the world.
“If one is to look at the world by region, Africa is the second smallest user or applier of fertiliser in food production. This is why it has recorded the lowest yields per hectare compared to other areas.”
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