On 11 August 2016, the South Africa Climate Smart Agriculture National Dialogue was held in Johannesburg. The dialogue, was organized by the South Africa FANRPAN Node Hosting Institution, the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC), in partnership with the FANRPAN Regional Secretariat, the German Development Cooperation GIZ-funded SADC programme on climate change adaptation in agriculture, and the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA). It brought together participants from governments, international organizations, the private sector, investment groups, research institutions and civil society to share their experiences, expertise and to partner in efforts to ensure that farmers adopt practices that contribute to sustainable agriculture. The one-day dialogue was honored by the presence of participants from 13 SADC member states which include Madagascar, Botswana, Ghana, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, among others to share their experiences and lessons learned on climate change and their adaptation strategies. The objective of the conference was to contribute to the adoption of climate-resilient agriculture practices through information sharing on climate-smart agriculture (CSA) best practices and discuss policies in place for climate-smart agriculture in the SADC region.
The South African agricultural sector has experienced a range of vulnerabilities and high variability of climatic conditions across the country which affects the agricultural sector more especially smallholder farmers. Climate change has been regarded as a serious natural disaster that leads to food insecurity and poverty as a result of the loss of crops and livestock. South Africa has experienced a low level of rainfall since the beginning of 2015. Some provinces were declared disaster areas and a fund to help farmers to cope with drought was established. It is in this regard that the CSA National dialogue is relevant to equip and increase knowledge to farmers on how to minimize losses and improve their resilience to climate change through adaptation of climate-smart agriculture (CSA).
The conference was officially opened by Mr. Bonani Nyhodo, Trade Research unit Manager at NAMC and FANRPAN Node Coordinator. Five key themes we discussed and they included (i) Climate smart agriculture practices; (ii) fighting Food Losses and Waste; (iii) Climate Change Effects on the SADC Region; (iv) Information translation and (v) science and innovation for agricultural development.
Key messages from all the sessions are as follows:
- Vermiculture technology was presented to provide for improved agricultural productivity (for food security) and the creation of employment.
- The success stories of Climate Smart Agriculture in South Africa can be replicated in other parts of the regions (be adapted to suite the local conditions).
- Awareness of Climate Smart Agriculture practices as well as coordination of Climate Smart Agricultural research and outreach activities could be coordinated by the planned alliance/network for CSA.
- Input Subsidy Programmes were outlined to provide a means to encourage coordination and behavior among farmers in order to achieve the objectives of improving resilience to climate variability and raising agricultural productivity.
- The implementation of conservation agriculture in Zambia is argued to have improved productivity (smallholder farmers); however, adoption of conservation agriculture practices still remained small irrespective of high production potential.
- Conservation agriculture in Southern Africa is an example of successful project implementation and lessons – the key important approach is to train senior agricultural officials who will transfer their knowledge to the ground users (farmers).
- There was a demonstration of the Green Agriculture Portal (South Africa) which is a reliable, relevant and friendly user research portal for green agricultural matters.
- It came out clearly during the deliberations that African farmers are unable to adapt fast to these unfavorable weather conditions and there is very limited information about carbon footprint, carbon-offsetting, and the carbon tax.
- The importance of knowledge transfer in CSA (to transfer presentable ideas to relevant people).
- The demonstration of a tool that can be used to calculate carbon emissions among smallholder farmers Western Cape South Africa is an innovation that is worth considering by other countries the region
- The new technology to reduce herbicides and pesticides in our production through Smart Sprayer should be considered highly.