Water Research Commission
Dr Gerhard Backeberg
Executive Manager: Water Utilisation in Agriculture
Water Research Commission
Project team led by Mahlathini Development Foundation.
Project Number: K5/2719/4
Project Title: Collaborative knowledge creation and mediation strategies for the dissemination of
Water and Soil Conservationpractices and Climate Smart Agriculture in smallholder farming
Deliverable No.1:Desktop review of Climate Smart Agriculture and Soil and Water Conservation
Date: May 2017
WRC K4/2719 Deliverable 1: Desktop review of Climate Smart Agriculture and Water and Soil Conservation
Mahlathini Development Foundation May 20172
Executive Manager: Water Utilisation in Agriculture
Water Research Commission
Mahlathini Development Centre
Institute of Natural Resources NPC
Rural Integrated Engineering (Pty) Ltd
Rhodes University Environmental Learning Research Centre
WRC K4/2719 Deliverable 1: Desktop review of Climate Smart Agriculture and Water and Soil Conservation
Mahlathini Development Foundation May 20173
OVERVIEW OF PROJECT AND DELIVERABLE 6
Contract Summary 6
Project objectives 6
Outputs and Impacts7
Overview of Deliverable 1 10
1CONTEXT AND OVERVIEW OF CLIMATE SMART AGRICULTURE 11
1.1Predictions for climate change 13
1.2Technical responses to climate change: CSA and related approaches 17
Conservation Agriculture (CA)18
Soil and Water Conservation (SWC)20
1.3Policy responses to climate change in South Africa 20
2APPLYING CSA IN THE CONTEXT OF SMALLHOLDER FARMING IN SOUTH AFRICA28
2.1Issues shaping the context of smallholder farming in South Africa 28
Land and livelihood29
2.2South Africa’s smallholder agricultural producers32
Access to agricultural land32
Characterisation of smallholder farmers32
Smallholder farming systems 36
Climate change impacts on smallholder farming systems37
2.3Theoretical framework of the project 38
Approaches and tools to be used in the project38
Working with local and traditional knowledge in the implementation of CSA41
Potential for mitigation through this approach43
3KEY APPROACHES AND DEFINITIONS 44
3.1Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) 44
CSA Practices 45
3.2Soil and Water Conservation (SWC) 46
3.3Conservation agriculture (CA) 48
Three principles of Conservation Agriculture50
A note on soils54
Constraints to Conservation Agriculture55
3.5Natural Resource Management (NRM) 57
Overview of natural resources58
Legislative and policy context of Natural Resource Management59
Economic and environmental benefits of agroforestry62
5SUPPORTING PRACTICES 73
WRC K4/2719 Deliverable 1: Desktop review of Climate Smart Agriculture and Water and Soil Conservation
Mahlathini Development Foundation May 20174
5.1Tools to support Natural Resource Management in a rural / communal context 73
Livelihoods approaches 73
Landscape approaches 73
5.2Community of practice 74
5.3Community learning networks75
5.4Community savings groups 75
5.5Participatory Innovation Development (PID) 75
5.6Farmer Field Schools 76
5.7Social, technical and institutional interventions to support CSA 76
Mahlathini Development Foundation May 20175
Figure 1 Ecosystem services and dis-services (DAFF, 2012) ................................................................. 23
Figure 2 Percentage of households involved in agriculturalactivities by province in 2015 (StatsSA,
Figure 3 Percentage distribution of the main reasons for agricultural involvement by practice in 2015
(StatsSA, 2016). .....................................................................................................................................30
Figure 4 The impact of the 2015 drought on the price of the PACSA Food Basket from November 2015
to April 2017 (PACSA, 2017) ..................................................................................................................31
Figure 5 Household water requirements and access (Kruger, 2016)...................................................37
Figure 6 The FAO concept of CSA as an overarching approach tosustainable development (Arslan,
Figure 7 Household level implementation of CSA integrates across sectors (Arslan, 2014) ................40
Figure 8 Exploration of CA and SWC practices for crop management .................................................41
Figure 9 Planting basins prepared using a hand hoe (left) and rip lines prepared using a ripper tine. 51
Figure 10 left and right: Soil cover provided by maize stover or residue from a previous season. .....52
Figure 11 Left: A cover crop mixture of fodder rye, fodder radish and black oats growing in a maize
field late in the season. .........................................................................................................................53
Figure 12 Right: Intercrop of cover crops (sunflower, sun hemp) and maize (Bergville, KZN) .............53
Figure 13 A field inter-cropped with beans and maize planted in double rows or tramlines (From
Mahlathini Organics, 2015 ....................................................................................................................54
Figure 14 A plot of maize and beans that are inter-cropped. ...............................................................54
Figure 15 : Landscape, on-farm diversity and soil and water features that enhance ecological resilience
to extreme climatic events ...................................................................................................................57
Figure 16 Five capitals of sustainable livelihood assessment (Lax and Krug, 2013) .............................73
TABLES 1South African Households’ Access to Agricultural Land (StatsSA 2006)…………………………… 32
Table 2 The agrarian structure of South Africa in 2014 (from Cousins, 2015 in Smith et al, 2017) .....33
Table 3 Farmer segmentation in the Bergville smallholder farming system (Smith et al, 2017) .........33
Table 4 Nature of agricultural activities per province in 2015 (SAStats, 2016) ....................................35
Table 5 Global status of provisioning, regulating, and cultural ecosystem services (adapted from FAO,
Table 6 Summary of environmental protection legislation (Pollard and du Toit, 2005). .....................60
Table 7 Practices which contribute to Climate Smart Agriculture ........................................................66
Table 8 Summary of potential CSA practices in smallholder cropping systemsError! Bookmark not
Table 9 Summary of potential SCA practices for smallholder vegetable production systems .......Error!
Bookmark not defined.
Table 10 Agroforestry systems and practices (Source: Nair 1991) .......................................................69
Mahlathini Development Foundation May 20176
OVERVIEW OF PROJECT AND DELIVERABLE
1.To evaluate and identify best practice options for CSA and Soil and Water Conservation
(SWC) in smallholder farming systems, in two bioclimatic regions in South Africa. (Output 1)
2.To amplify collaborative knowledge creation of CSA practices with smallholder farmers in
South Africa (Output 2)
3.To test and adapt existing CSA decision support systems (DSS) for the South African smallholder
context (Outputs 2,3)
4.To evaluate the impact of CSA interventions identifiedthrough the DSS by piloting interventions
in smallholder farmer systems, considering water productivity, social acceptability and farm-scale
resilience (Outputs 3,4)
5.Visual and proxy indicators appropriate for a Paymentfor Ecosystems based model aretested at
community level for local assessment of progress and tested against field and laboratory analysis
of soil physical and chemical properties, and water productivity (Output 5)
Poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition levels in South Africa are still high and on the increase. About
53% of children under six live in poor households. The vast majority of these children are African and
live in rural areas in Kwazulu Natal, Eastern Cape and Limpopo. The figures can be compared with just
less than 33% of households and 45% of individuals categorised as poor in terms of South Africa's
official upper-bound poverty line of R779 ($50) per month.
Agriculture remains vital tothe economy in South Africa and its development has significant
implications for food security and poverty reduction. Although improvementof food security and
improved nutrition as well as the promotion of sustainable agriculture and sustainable water
management strategies are national policy priorities, strategies and implementation processes for the
millions of impoverished rural dwellers are sorely lacking.
Increase in agriculturalproductivity for the smallholder sector has mainly focussed on
commercialisation strategies and conventional farming practices, with very little change in production
techniques and limited improvement in yields.
Land tenure insecurity for millions of smallholder farmers, including women, declining soil fertility,
severely restricted access to water, degradedecosystems, poor market access, inadequate funding
and inadequate infrastructure development continue to hinderagricultural development for
smallholder farmers. These challenges are expected to be further exacerbated by climate change and
developing adaptation mechanisms is a high priority.
Economic development and agricultural expansion are often achieved atthe expense of
environmentallysustainable practices. Ecosystem functions, including biodiversity and water services,
are key to increasing resource efficiency and productivity and ensuring resilience. They are even more
Mahlathini Development Foundation May 20177
critical under the new realities of climate change. Ecosystem Based Adaptation (EBA)-driven
agriculture linked to viablesupplyand demand side value chains, has an important role to play in
developing an agricultural sector that is well integrated to the broader landscape, is climate resilient
and environmentally and socially sustainable.
Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) promotes increases in productivity and adaptation to climate change
that encompass socially and environmentally responsible agriculture. Numerous approaches,
technologies and practices tosupport CSA are already available. CSA includes both traditional and
innovative agricultural practices and technologies that promote agricultural productivity and generate
income, while boosting resilience to climate change.
The ideal combination of CSA actions varies from location to location. For this reason, site specific
assessments are critical aspects of CSA implementation, identifying the most suitable actions for each
agro-ecological and socioeconomic context. Anumber of decision support systems and tools have
been developed, mainly by international and national research based organisations for this purpose,
but similar systems and knowledge mediation processes appropriate toour smallholder context are
however still lacking. These decision-support systems and prioritisation frameworks must characterise
CSA practices, prioritize locally appropriate actions, assess costs and benefits,link national andlocal
planning mechanisms and most importantly must be built on community based criteria, indicators and
priorities Concrete actions must be taken to enhance the evidence base to underpin strategic choices,
promote and facilitate wider adoption of appropriate technologies by smallholder farmers and
develop institutional arrangements to support, apply and scale-out CSA in the smallholder farming
systems. Actions are required from a broad range of stakeholdersfrom government andthe public
sector, private sector, academia and research, NGOs and CBOs, among others.
The CSA decision-support system (DSS) aims to improve regional and local planning by providing a
coherent process for directing climate change and agriculture adaptation investments and
programmes. With transparency and participation at the heart of this process, local knowledge and
scientific evidence can work together to establish realistic pathways for increasing CSA adoption.
Sustainable soil, water and natural resource use options and practices effect increased productivity,
food security and wellbeing for a range of smallholder farmers; from subsistence through to semi-
Outputs and Impacts
Outputs of the development phase of this research process include the decision-support framework,
series of manuals, stakeholder platforms for continued support (post-project) and lessons learned
from the pilot implementationprocesses. Each subsequent use of the platform will produce
investment portfolios and linked outputs for scaling out CSA, which will both create real action on the
ground and provide feedback for improving the platform and establishing further best practice
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1.A locally relevant DSS for CSA and WSC in smallholder farming systems in South Africa
2.A choice of appropriate, tested practices and technologies for implementation at homestead
and field level across a range of bioclimatic regions
3.Baskets of options for use at community based level for introduction of concepts, awareness
raising and implementation, across a range of bioclimatic regions
4.Recommendations for appropriate knowledge mediation, learning and dissemination
strategies for CSA in smallholder farming systems
5.A model for community based monitoring of CSA indicators
1.Smallholder farmers across a range of bioclimatic regions have increased knowledge and
awareness of climate change and are able to adapt to these stresses by implementing
appropriate agricultural and water management practices.
2.Smallholder farmers are able to make informed decisions about and are able to implement a
range of climate smart agricultural practices that are best bet options for their specific socio-
economic and agro-ecological situations
3.Implementation of practices that include but are not limited to soil and water conservation
practices (including conservation agriculture), rainwater harvesting and storage for
productive activities, increased diversity in food production and inclusion of indigenous
crops and plants in their farming systems, micro climate management strategies (such as
drip irrigation and small greenhouses), integration of small livestock and agroforestry.
4.Smallholder farmers link with and are supported by local stakeholders and use the CSA
decision support frameworks for implementation and increased awareness through scaling
out of practices to other communities in and between localities
5.Smallholder farmers work together and build local platforms for joint activities related to
their improved farming systems (including savings, local value chain development and joint
resource management options)
6.Scaling out and scaling up of the CSA frameworks and implementation strategies lead to
greater resilience and food security for smallholder farmers in their locality.
Mahlathini Development Foundation May 20179
FINANCIAL YEAR 2017/2018
Report: Desktop review of
CSA and WSC
Desktop review of current science, indigenous and traditional
knowledge, and best practice in relation to CSA and WSC in the
South African context
1 June 2017
Report on stakeholder
engagement and case
study development and
Identifying and engaging with projects and stakeholders
implementing CSA and WSC processes and capturing case studies
applicable to prioritized bioclimatic regions
Identification of pilot research sites
Decision support system
for CSA in smallholder
farming developed (Report
Decision support system for prioritization of best bet CSA options in
a particular locality; initial database and models. Review existing
models, in conjunction with stakeholder discussions for initial
FINANCIAL YEAR: 2018/2019
CoPs and demonstration
sites established (report)
Establish communities of practice (CoP)s including stakeholders and
smallholder farmers in each bioclimatic region.5. With each CoP,
identify and select demonstration sites in each bioclimatic region
and pilot chosen collaborative strategies for introduction of a range
of CSA and WSC strategies in homestead farming systems (gardens
1 May 2018
Interim report: Refined
decision support system
for CSA in smallholder
Refinement of criteria and practices, introduction of new ideas and
innovations, updating of decision support system
Interim report: Results of
pilots, season 1
Pilot chosen collaborative strategies for introduction of a range of
CSA and WSC strategies , working with the CoPs in each site and the
decisions support system. Create knowledge mediation productions,
manuals, handouts and other resources necessary for learning and
FINANCIAL YEAR 2019/2020
procedures for verification
of the visual indicators.
Set up farmer and researcher level experimentation
1 May 2019
Development of indicators,
proxies and benchmarks
and knowledge mediation
Document and record appropriate visual indicators and proxies for
community level assessment, work with CoPs to implement and
refine indicators. Link proxies and benchmarks to quantitative
research to verify and formalise. Explore potential incentive
schemes and financing mechanisms.
Analysis of contemporary approaches to collaborative knowledge
creation within the agricultural sector. Conduct survey of present
knowledge mediation processes in community and smallholder
settings. Develop appropriate knowledge mediation processes for
each CoP. Develop CoP decision support systems
Interim report: results of
pilots, season 2
Pilot chosen collaborative strategies for introduction of a range of
CSA and WSC strategies, working with the CoPs in each site and the
decisions support system. Create knowledge mediation productions,
manuals, handouts and other resources necessary for learning and
FINANCIAL YEAR 2020/2021
Final report: Resultsof
Pilot chosen collaborative strategies for introduction of a range of
CSA and WSC strategies , working with the CoPs in each site and the
decisons support system. Create knowledge mediation productions,
mauals, handouts and other resoruces necessary for learning and
1 June 2020
Final Report: Consolidation
and finalisation of decision
Finalisation of criteria and practices, introduction of new ideas and
innovations, updating of decision support system
3 July 2020
Final report - Summarise
recommendations for best
Summarise and disseminate recommendations for best practice
options for knowledge mediation and CSA and SWC techniques for
prioritized bioclimatic regions
8 July 2020
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Overview of Deliverable 1
This Deliverable is essentially intended to scope the context in which the Project will need to locate
itself. This context includes the increasing global recognition of the realities of climate change and the
potential impacts on agricultural production, and indeed the trends already observed in relation to
this. The documentidentifies the key global responses to thesepotential impacts, and locates them
within the South African situation. The context also includes the national policy framework within
which agricultural developments take place in South Africa, and provides an initial analysis in relation
to the support for agricultural approaches consistent with improving resilienceto climate change, in
particular in relation tosmallholder farmers. The Deliverablethen describesthe various agricultural
approaches that will be tested through the project in some detail, identifying the potentials and
possible constraints on each of these.
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1CONTEXT AND OVERVIEW OF CLIMATE SMART AGRICULTURE
For millennia farmers across the globe have adapted their farming practices, such as their choice of
crops and livestock; sowing, planting and harvesting times; transhumance patterns and irrigation and
other farming techniques, to the vagaries of season and climate in their part of the world. In many
areas these adaptations evolved into fixed patterns where each year the timing of the farming
activities could be predicted almost to the day, with some relatively minor variations. Farming
practices in many areas were therefore predicated on a relatively high degree of climate predictability
in terms of rainfall patterns and amounts and temperature variations. Inevitably some regions --
particularly the more marginal and drier regions--were prone to periodic extremes, of drought or
flood or extreme temperatures, which impacted negatively on the productivity of the farmers and on
the food security and livelihoods of entire populations. Farmers’abilities to adapt under such
conditions has, in some cases, been stretched to the limit.
In recent times, however, climate has become more difficult to predict as conditions have become
more extreme. Farming adaptations developed over the millennia are proving inadequate in the face
of these challenges. There is increasing evidence that a key driver of these shifts is global climate
change caused, and/or accelerated, by human activities (anthropogenic influences). The
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2014) reports that
“In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human
systems on all continents and across the oceans.”
With regard to agriculture, the IPCC comments that
“Based on many studies covering a wide range of regions and crops, negative impacts
of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts,”
and with regardto livelihoods it states that
“Climate-related hazards exacerbate other stressors, often with negative outcomes for
livelihoods, especially for people living in poverty (high confidence).”
In response to these challenging new conditions faced by farmers across the globe, the United Nations
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) presented its response -- an approach it has termed Climate
Smart Agriculture (CSA) --at the 2010 Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change
in the Hague. In its definition the FAO states, in its CSA Sourcebook (Climate Smart Agriculture
Sourcebook, FAO, 2013), that CSA
‘…contributes to the achievement of sustainable development goals. It
integrates the three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social
and environmental) by jointly addressing food security and climate challenges.
It is composed of three main pillars:
1. sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes;
2. adapting and building resilience to climate change;
3. reducing and/or removing greenhouse gases emissions, where possible.
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CSA is an approach to developing the technical, policy and investment conditions
to achieve sustainable agricultural development for food security under climate
change. The magnitude, immediacy and broad scope of the effects of climate
change on agricultural systems create a compelling need to ensure
comprehensive integration of these effects intonational agricultural planning,
investments and programs. The CSA approach is designed to identify and
operationalize sustainable agricultural development within the explicit
parameters of climate change.’ (emphasis added)
The FAO explains the urgency for a new approach as follows:
Between now and 2050, the world’s population will increase by one-third. Most of these
additional 2billion people will live in developing countries. At the same time, more
people will be living in cities. If current income and consumptiongrowth trends continue,
FAO estimates that agricultural production will haveto increase by 60 percent by 2050
to satisfy the expected demands for food and feed. Agriculture must therefore transform
itself if it is to feed a growingglobal population and provide the basis for economic
growth and poverty reduction. Climate change will make this task more difficult under a
business-as-usual scenario, due to adverse impacts on agriculture, requiring spiralling
adaptation and related costs.
Developing countries and smallholder farmers and pastoralists in particular are being
especially hard hit by these changes. Many of these small-scale producers are already
coping with a degraded natural resource base. They often lack knowledge about
potential options for adapting their production systems and have limited assets and
risk-taking capacity to access and use technologiesand financial services(ibid).
The emphasised section has particular relevance for this WRC project in that the smallholder farmers
intended as the main beneficiaries of the project activities are subject to the stresses and constraints
outlined by the FAO here. Additionally the approachpromoted by CSA, and which will inform the
project activities, is particularly concerned with the notion of livelihoods and food security and the
need to enhance these wherever possible, through the practices outlined by the FAO, and summarised
‘This approach also aims to strengthen livelihoods and food security, especially of
smallholders, by improving the management and use of natural resources and adopting
appropriate methods and technologies for the production, processing and marketing of
agricultural goods. To maximize the benefits and minimize the trade-offs, CSA takes into
consideration the social, economic, and environmental context where it will be applied.
Repercussions on energy and local resources are also assessed. A key component is the
integrated landscape approach that follows the principles of ecosystem management
and sustainable land and water use.’
This therefore provides a valuable summary of the approach to be adopted by the project. [More
detail on the FAO approach to CSA is provided in Chapter 3 of this report.]
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The following sections explore climate change, Climate Smart Agriculture, and the response of the
South African government in terms of policy and initiatives addressing climate change and promoting
CSA, in greater depth.
1.1Predictions for climate change
One of the greatest challenges with regard to climate change is the near impossibility of making
accurate predictions as to how it will impact different areas of the world. While current impacts can
be identified with fairly high levels of confidence, the precise nature of the changes in climate and the
effects of this on agricultural production in different areas are far less certain. However the IPCC
have bitten the bullet and made some fairly strong predictions in relationto agriculture
globally, and within different regions of the world.
Predicted global climate change
All aspects of food security are potentially affected by climate change, including food
access, utilization, and price stability (high confidence).
For the major crops (wheat, rice, and maize) in tropical and temperate regions, climate
change withoutadaptationwill negativelyimpact production for local temperature
increases of 2°C or more above late-20th-century levels, although individual locations
may benefit (medium confidence).
Climate change will increase progressively the inter-annual variability of crop yields in
many regions (medium confidence).
Predicted climate change in Africa
African ecosystems are already being affected by climate change, and future impacts
are expected to be substantial (high confidence).
Climate change will amplify existing stress on water availability in Africa (high
Climate change will interact with non-climate drivers and stressors to exacerbate
vulnerability of agricultural systems, particularly in semi-arid areas (high confidence).
Africa’s food production systems are among the world’s most vulnerable because of
extensive reliance on rainfed crop production, high intra- and inter-seasonal climate
variability, recurrent droughts and floods that affect both crops and livestock, and
persistent poverty that limits the capacity to adapt
Increased temperatures are expected to increase pests and disease and reduce yields
–by as much as 28% in Africa over the next 50 years, in the absence of adaptations
(Boko et al., 2007)
And of particular relevance to this project:
Progress has been achieved on managing risks to food production from current climate
variability and near-term climate change but these will not be sufficient to address long-
term impacts of climate change (high confidence). Livelihood-based approaches for
Mahlathini Development Foundation May 201714
managing risks to food production from multiple stressors, including rainfall variability,
have increased substantially in Africa sincethe IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).
While these efforts can improve the resiliency of agricultural systems in Africa over the
near term, current adaptations will be insufficient for managing risks from long-term
climate change, which will be variable across regions and farming system types.
Nonetheless, processes such as collaborative,participatory research that includes
scientists and farmers, strengthening of communication systems for anticipating and
responding toclimate risks, and increased flexibility in livelihood options, which serve
to strengthen coping strategies in agriculture for near-term risks from climate variability,
provide potential pathways for strengthening adaptive capacities for climate change.
(emphasis added) (ibid)
Predictions for South Africa
The IPCC makes these broad predictions relating to rainfall and temperature in South Africa:
All of Africa is projected to warmduring the 21st century, with the warming very likely
to be greater than the global annual mean warming – throughout the continent and in
all seasons. The drier, subtropical regions are projected to warm more than the moister
tropics. This result is consistent with the strong observed temperature trends over
subtropical South Africa (Kruger and Shongwe, 2004), which indicate that change is
The model projects an increase in the median temperature of more than 3°C over the
central and northern interior regions of South Africa. Overthecoastal regions of the
country, a somewhat smaller increase(about 2°C) is projected. The largest increase in
median temperatureis projected to occur over the central interior of South Africa,
exceeding a value of 4°C during autumn and winter. Generally, the largest temperature
increases are projectedfor autumn and winter, with the summer and spring changes
being somewhat smaller.
The Coupled General Circulation Models (CGCM) projections described in AR4 indicate
that rainfall is likely to decrease over the winter rainfall region of South Africa and the
western margins of southern Africa (Christensen et al., 2007). Observed trends in rainfall
over South Africa are not as well defined and spatially coherent as the observed trends
Most of the summer rainfall region of South Africa is projected to become drier in spring
and autumn as a result of the more frequent formation of mid-level high-pressure
systems over this region. More frequent cloud-band formation takes place over eastern
South Africa, resulting in increased summer rainfall totals.
Greater increases in dry spell duration is projected for the greater proportion of eastern
and north-eastern South Africa for all seasons, indicating that dry spells of relatively long
duration may be expectedto occur more frequently. Similar patterns of change are
projected for the late 21st century.
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Potential Impact on Food Security
With regard to the impact of climate change on food security in Southern Africa, the IPPC makes the
Maize-based systems, particularly in southern Africa, are among the most vulnerable to
climate change (Lobell et al., 2008). Estimated yield losses at mid-century range from
18% for southern Africa (Zinyengere et al., 2013) to 22% aggregated across sub-Saharan
Africa, with yield losses for South Africa and Zimbabwe in excess of 30% (Schlenker and
Loss of livestock under prolonged drought conditions is a critical risk given the extensive
rangeland in Africa that is prone to drought.Regions that are projected to become drier
with climate change, suchas northern and southern Africa, are of particular concern
(Solomon etal., 2007; Masike and Urich, 2008; Dougill et al., 2010; Freieret al., 2012;
Schilling et al., 2012).
Groundwater recharge may also not be significantly affected by climate change in areas
that receive more than 500 mm per year, where sufficient recharge would remain even if
rainfall diminished, assuming current groundwater extraction rates. By contrast, areas
receiving between 200 and 500 mmper year, including the Sahel, the Horn of Africa,
and Southern Africa, may experience a decline in groundwater recharge with climate
change to the extent that prolonged drought and other precipitation anomalies become
more frequent with climate change, particularly in shallow aquifers, which respond
more quickly to seasonal and yearly changes in rainfall than do deep aquifers (Bovolo et
Climate Trend Analysis and Predictions for South Africa
In 2012 the South African national Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in collaboration with
the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) established the Long-Term Adaptation
Scenario (LTAS) Flagship Research Programme in response to the South African National Climate
Change Response White Paper White Paper (NCCRP).
The LTAS has produced a series of detailed technical reports covering different sectors. It reports the
following climate trends observed in South Africa in the half century since 1960:
Mean annual temperatures have increased by more than 1.5 times the observed global average
Maximum and minimum temperatures have been increasing annually, and in almost all seasons.
Hot and cold extremes have increased and decreased respectively in frequency, in most seasons
across the country, particularly in the western and northern interior.
In almost all hydrological zones there has been a marginal reduction in rainfall for the autumn
months. Annual rainfall has not changed significantly, but an overall reduction in the number of
rain days implies a tendency towards an increase in the intensity of rainfall events and increased
dry spell duration.
Extreme rainfall events show a tendency towards increasing in frequency annually, and
especially in spring and summer, with a reduction in extremes in autumn.
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The LTAS’s climate change projections for South Africa for 2050 and beyond, without mitigation,
include significant warming, as high as 5–8°C over the South African interior; somewhat reduced over
coastal zones and a general pattern of possible drier conditions to the west and south of the country
and wetter conditions over the east of the country. In a cautionary note the LTAS emphasises the high
degree of uncertainty that accompanies interpreting modeled and even observed trends:
contradictions have beennoted between some modeled and observed trends, while many of the
projected changes are within the range of historical natural variability. However, despite these caveats
it retains high levels of confidence in its predictions.
In a parallel process,the national Department of Science and Technology (DST) as part of its 10-year
Global Change Grand Challenge commissioned the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
to develop theSouth African Risk and Vulnerability Atlas (SARVA), as an information portal through
which to share analyses and predictions in relation to climatechange inSouth Africa. SARVA makes
the followingpredictions with regardto the impact of climate change on agriculture inSouth Africa
In South Africa, a semi-aridcountry where the average evaporation rate exceeds its
precipitation, water is a critical limiting factor for agriculturalproduction. The
agriculture sector accounts for about 60% of water utilisation in South Africa. Changes
in water demand and availability will significantly affect farming activities, with western
regions predicted to have 30% reducedwater availability by 2050. Under these
conditions irrigation demand will increase, especially in the affected drier western parts
of the country, adding to the pressure on water resources.
The profitability of maize and wheat production is highly climate dependent. With a 2°C
increase in temperatureand a 10% reduction in rainfall, profits are projected to be
generally reduced by around R500/ha, which is equivalent to a yield reductionof 0.5
t/ha (Schulze, 2007). Wheat-producing regions in marginal areas of the winter rainfall
region are expected to suffer losses of 15-60% by 2030- 2050, depending on the extent
of warming and drying (Midgley et al., 2007).
The greatest impact on production is expected to be in the most marginal areas, where
low and irregular rainfall is already experienced. The implications of these projections
are significant as many livelihoods depend upon these industries (Midgley et al., 2007).
Extensive livestock farming comprises nearly 80% of agricultural land in South Africa.
Dairy farming is practiced all over South Africa, whereas sheep farming and most of
South Africa’s rangelands are to be found in the semi-arid areas of the country. Any
further decline in water availability in these water-stressed areas is likely to impact
carrying capacity and may lead tosevere livestock loss and a decline in overall
Predicted changes in climate are expected to:
• modify agricultural productivity across different farming regions;
• alter the spatial distribution of climatically suitable growing areas, with certain
areas benefiting, while others may find themselves at a disadvantage;
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• impose new management practices or adjustment to existing operations;
• result in a shift in agricultural trade patterns; and
• identify new crop opportunities with certain crops having competitive
advantages/ disadvantages over others (Schulze, 2007).
While SARVA has a strong commercial focus in terms of agriculture, it does offer some comments on
the potential impacts of climate change on small-scale farmers:
Emerging, small-scale and resource-poor farmers are particularly vulnerable to climate
change and variability because they have fewer capital resources and management
technologies at their disposal. Subsistence farmers often do not have the ability to adapt
nor sufficient means to deal with and recover from extreme events such as floods and
droughts (SARVA, 2013).
It is small-scale and emerging farmers, such as the participants in this research study, who stand to be
most impacted by changes in climatic conditions.
1.2Technical responses to climate change: CSA and related approaches
As discussed above, Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA)is the principal agricultural approach being
promoted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in response to climate change. Climate
Smart Agriculture aims to integrate the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable
development byaddressing food security and climate challenges in tandem (FAO, 2013).The FAO
describes CSA as:
“…an approach to developing the technical, policy and investment conditions to achieve
sustainable agricultural development for food security under climate change. The
magnitude, immediacy and broad scope of the effects of climate change on agricultural
systems create a compelling need to ensure comprehensive integration of these effects
into national agricultural planning, investments and programs.” (emphasis added) (ibid)
The Climate Smart Agriculture approach is built on three key principles:
1.sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes
2.adapting and building resilience to climate change
3.reducing and/or removing greenhouse gases emissions, where possible
Price Waterhouse and Cooper describe CSA as the second ‘green revolution’:
The United Nations Environment Programme defines a ‘green economy’ as one that
results in improved human wellbeing and social equity, while significantly reducing
environmental risksand ecological scarcities. The first green revolution in agriculture
began in the mid-1960s with the advent of high yielding seed varieties and the increased
use of pesticides and fertilisers. Climate change now necessitates a second green
revolution as the world moves towards a green economy. This revolution will take the
form of ‘climate-smart agriculture’ that sustainably increases productivity, resilience
(adaptation) and reduces/ removes greenhouse gases (mitigation), while enhancing the
achievement of national food security and development goals (Mammatt, 2016).
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CSA is also concerned with the notion of livelihoods and food security and the need to enhance these
wherever possible, particularly in the case of small holders:
This approach also aims to strengthen livelihoods and food security, especially of
smallholders, by improving the management and use of natural resources and adopting
appropriate methods and technologies for the production, processing and marketing of
agricultural goods. To maximize the benefits and minimize the trade-offs, CSA takes into
consideration the social, economic, and environmental context where it will be applied.
Repercussions on energy and local resources are also assessed. A key component is the
integrated landscape approach that follows the principles of ecosystemmanagement
and sustainable land and water use (ibid).
The FAO statement, above, also makes clear that appropriate technologies, developed under
different agricultural regimes are entirely compatible with the broad concept of CSA. Within
the project there willbe particular emphasis on technologies developed under the headings
of Conservation Agriculture (CA), Agro-ecology, and Water and Soil Conservation (WCS).
These approaches are introduced below and will be discussed in greater detail in Chapters 3 and 4.
CSA is also a focus for research by the (former) Consultative Group for International
Agricultural Research (CGIAR), through their Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security
(CCAFS) programme in partnership with other international agricultural research
organisations. In particular CGIAR is concerned with developing a participatory climate
change and food security vulnerability assessment toolkit, and a decision support system for
identifying appropriate CSA practices. Both of these will inform the project’s work with
Conservation Agriculture (CA)
Conservation agriculture (CA) has gained popularity across the world as an alternative to both
conventional tillage and organic agriculture. It is founded on three principles:
oContinuous minimum mechanical soil disturbance
oPermanent organic soil cover
oDiversification of crop species grown in sequences and/or association
Dumanski et al. (2006) describe CA as a system aimedtooptimizerather than maximizeyields and
profits and balance agricultural, economic and environmental benefits. The Africa Portal website
(www.africaportal.org backgrounder no. 61 August 2013) under the heading “Conservation
Agriculture: South Africa’s new green revolution?” posits the following benefits for CA:
When practiced in a comprehensive way, improved crop yields have been noted over
time while the required quantity of most inputs has reduced. Soil fertility and moisture
and the system’s resilience to environmental pressures improve dramatically in the
absence of tillage, and in the presence of cover crops and residues which add organic
matter and nutrients. Over time, sensitivity to weather variability and extremes is
reduced by gains such as improved water-holding and drought performance (Thierfelder
and Wall, 2010). Improved soil moisture retention creates more reliable conditions for
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planting, and single-pass tillage techniques enable planting to be completed within a
much shorter timeframe. Planting under the CA approach therefore requires less rainfall
and a smaller window of good weather, improving the farmer’s ability to optimally time
planting relative to the growing season.(Hobbs, 2007) (emphasis added).
This holds particular significance for smallholder farmers, such as the participants in this project.
Conservation agriculture has been taken up on a large scale in some parts of the world, particularly by
commercial grain (wheat,maize etc.) producers, and the practices are often combined with the use of
genetically modified seeds, and quite intensive herbicide, pesticide and fertilizer applications. In
South Africa, CA was first introduced around 40 years ago. While uptake was initially slow, the
adoption of CA in thecommercial agriculture sector in the major grain producing regions of South
Africahas increased dramatically, especiallyover the past decade, as conventional methods have
proven increasingly limiting, especially in terms of landdegradation and input cost pressures, as the
benefits of CA practices gained exposure. The most recent assessment indicates that 40% of
commercial farmers across all grain producing areas of South Africa have adopted all CAprinciples and
it is expected that adoption trends will increase sharply over the next decade (Smith et al, 2017).
Although no figures exist to indicate the extent to which CAhas been adopted within the smallholder
production sector in SouthAfrica, it is believed to still be very low (below 5%). Promotion of CA to
smallholders occurs mostly through projects funded by government or other agencies. Frequently
adoption of practices peaks during the implementation of a project and declines after the project ends
and funds are no longer available, although some participants in these projects do continue to
implement CA without project support. The constraints facing smallholders,such as availability of
resources such as land, production inputs, labour, information, funds, markets and access to
infrastructure, all contribute to severely limit the adoption of CA (Smith et al, 2017).
The Scientific Society of Agroecology (SOCLA) defines agroecology as follows (Agroecology 2015):
Agroecology is ascientific discipline that uses ecological theory to study, design, manage
and evaluate agricultural systems that are productive but also resource conserving.
Agroecological research considers interactions of all important biophysical, technical
and socioeconomic components of farming systems and regards these systemsas the
fundamental units of study, where mineral cycles, energy transformations,biological
processes and socioeconomic relationships are analyzed as a whole in an
Agroecology is concerned with the maintenance of a productive agriculture that sustains
yields and optimizes the use of local resources while minimizing the negative
environmental and socio-economicimpacts of modern technologies.In industrial
countries, modern agriculture with its yield maximizing high-input technologies
generates environmental and health problems that often do not serve the needs of
producers and consumers. In developing countries, in addition to promoting
environmental degradation, modern agricultural technologies have bypassed the
circumstances and socio-economic needs of large numbers of resource-poor farmers.
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In industrial countries, modern agriculture with its yield-maximizing, high-input technologies
generates environmental and health problems that often do not serve the interests of producers and
consumers. In developing countries, modern agricultural technologies --in addition to promoting
environmental degradation –often do not speak to the circumstances and socio-economic needs of
large numbers of resource-poor farmers.
Agroecology is concerned with sustaining yields and optimising the use of local resources while
minimizing the negative environmental and socio-economic impacts of modern technologies.
Applying agroecological technologies requires:
Technological innovations, agriculture policy changes, socio-economic changes, but
mostly a deeper understanding of the complex long-term interactions among resources,
people and their environment. To attain this understanding agriculture must be
conceived of as an ecological system as well as a human dominated socio-economic
system. A new interdisciplinary framework to integratethe biophysical sciences, ecology
and other social sciences is indispensable. (www.agroeco.org, 2017)
Interdisciplinarity --where the natural and social sciences come together –is key, and presents
perhaps the biggest challenge. The approaches used in natural science, with their preference for
modelling systems behaviour, struggle to deal with the immense range of variables affecting human
behaviour, making them ill-suited to simple modelling approaches, while natural scientists may be
averse to approaches used in social sciences, which they see as lacking technical rigour. Over the past
10 years, however, therehas been increasing recognition of the need for genuinely interdisciplinary
approaches and more convergence between the natural and social science approaches.
Soil and Water Conservation (SWC)
Soil and Water Conservation is more an umbrella term than a specific approach, and incorporatesa
wide range of practices focussed on making effective use of available water, improving soil health and
quality and minimising soil loss through erosion. Many practices, such as mulching, cover-cropping,
integration of organic matter into the soil, and minimum tillage are effective for both water and soil
conservation and it ispractices such as these (many of which are derived from organic or permaculture
approaches) which best further the aims of Climate Smart Agriculture
1.3Policy responses to climate change in South Africa
The challenges facing smallholder farmers and the agricultural sector as a whole as a result of climate
change require transformation throughinstitutional and policy support. On the international level,
international agricultural research organisations have begun to partner to achieve this and realise the
objectives of CSA. One example is the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)
programme initiated by the (former) Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research
(CGIAR) in partnership with other international agricultural research organisations.
The FAO stresses that national policies in agriculture, environment, finance and other sectors will have
to be aligned effectively to support farmers if any significant change is to be realised (FAO, 2010).
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In South Africa, a numberof key policy documents address climate change and the impacts and
required adaptations in different sectors, particularly agriculture. The overarchingpolicy document
on South Africa’s response to climatechange is the National Climate Change Response White Paper,
which outlines climate responses for different sectors of the SA economy (South Africa, 2011).Its
objective is that:
South Africa will build the climate resilience of the country, its economy and its people
and manage the transition to a climate-resilient, equitable and internationally
competitive lower-carbon economy and society in a manner that simultaneously
addresses South Africa’s over-riding national priorities for sustainable development, job
creation, improved public and environmental health, poverty eradication, and social
equality (South Africa, 2011).
A considerable amount of research has been conducted into the potential impacts of climate change
on South Africa, including on agriculture across the country. One of the key research programmes is
the Long Term Adaptation Scenarios Flagship Research Programme (LTAS), introduced in the previous
section. The LTAS is part of the International Climate Initiative (ICI) supported by the German Federal
Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. This programme draws on
global climate research models to develop a range of possible scenarios emerging from different
climate change impacts, and suggests mitigation and adaptation measures in relation to these.
The LTAS is one of eight Near Term Priority Climate Change Flagship Programmes identified by the
White Paper, and while they all have some relevance for the agricultural sector, the LTAS and the
Water Conservation and Water Demand Management Flagship Programme (WCWDM) are perhaps
most directly applicable.
Several South African policy documents mention and promote Climate Smart Agriculture specifically.
The Agricultural Policy Action Plan mentions that CSA includes numerous well-developed approaches
to agriculture and the Draft Climate Change Sector Plan for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
recommends a number of CSA measures for implementation (DAFF, 2014).
The National Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), in its Strategic Plan 2015/16
to 2019/20 highlights an interesting economic argument in favour of CSA:
It is important to note that the competitiveness of agriculture is being eroded by high
and rising input costs.For example, the value of imported fertilisers, diesel and
machinery, has for many years, exceeded the value of agricultural exports, meaning that
even though agriculture may appear to make a positive contribution to the trade
balance, this is not necessarily the case. An argument is currently emerging that the key
is to promotea shift from conventional agriculture to “climate-smart agriculture” such
as conservation agriculture. Whereas climate-smart agriculture has long been argued
on grounds of environmental sustainability and reducing production risk, another
advantage is that it can achieve the same or greater productivity, but with greatly
reduced production inputs. This will have the effect of making producers more
competitive by lowering input costs, while reversing the trend of agriculture`s negative
contribution to the trade balance (DAFF, 2015).
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Conservation agriculture is cited here as an exampleof CSA andit is with CA which DAFF is most
directly involved. A CA policy is in the process of development, although its status is unclear at
In the Department’s Integrated Growth and Development Plan (DAFF, 2012) a section (3.3) is devoted
to ecological sustainability, where the importance of protecting the natural resources is highlighted -
-in particular the need for an optimal regulatory framework that is adequately enforced:
The plan explains that:
“…it is postulated that optimising ecosystems services within the agricultural, forestry and
fisheries sectors will require a holistic approach that includes, among others:
•Control to prevent losses through rezoning and neglect of productive land;
•Adoption of improved technologies, particularly input cost-reducing eco-technologies
such as conservation agriculture, in especially sensitive areas;
•Re-building of capacity for appropriate R&D; and
Creation of an enabling environment (DAFF, 2012)”. (ibid)
There is also recognition of the importance of ecosystem services and the introduction of the notion
of ‘dis-services’ provided by inappropriate agricultural practices and approaches:
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The plan goes on to discuss the impacts of climate change on agriculture generally and raises the issue
of the sector’s own contribution to climate change:
The IGDP goes on to discuss the impacts of agriculture generally and raises the issue of the sectors
own contribution to climate change:
Agricultural practices can have direct impacts on productive lands and biodiversity, as
well as indirect impacts on downstream water quality and flows and aquatic ecosystem
health. The continued pressure on agricultureto increase output per unit of land
intensifies the challenge to ensure the natural resource base is protected. Programmes
initiated by the former Department of Agriculture to protect the resource base are
successful, but insufficient. Agriculture also contributes to global climate change through
the release into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane
and nitrous oxide. Livestock contribute 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions(FAO,
2006). Industrial meat production contributes to global warming through deforestation
for ranching –this industry is the largest contributor to deforestation –and gas
production. Commercial, export-oriented and input-intensive agriculture contributes to
climate change through carbon emissions from petrol and diesel, in the production and
sourcing of inputs, in primary production, in processing, and in transportand
international trade. Smallholder farming is less environmentally damaging, in terms of
climate impact (ibid).
Figure 1 Ecosystem services and dis-services (DAFF, 2012)
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There is clearly considerable understanding of the relationship between agriculture and climate
change in the department, however this has not as yet translated into active promotion and support
of CSA, beyond the existing relatively small-scale LandCare programmes and some moves towards
conservation agriculture among commercial grain producers. The department itself, with some
justification, ascribes the continuing environmental degradation caused by farming to a lack of
compliance with existing legislation (such as the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, CARA, 43
of 1983, theNational Environmental Management Act, NEMA, 107 of 1998 and related legislation) and
associated regulations (DAFF, 2015) .
Despite the currently limited support for CSA, as discussed above, the plan does include someclear
directives for future interventions in relation to climate change:
With regard to climate change, there is the need to develop both adaptation and
mitigation strategies for the sector. In agriculture, the most important adaptation
strategies identified in major research studies on African farmers and climate change are
diversification in crop and livestockproduction (varieties and breeds), income
diversification,and migration (Dinar et al., 2008). However, opportunities to adapt in
these ways are not equally available to all; as one major study concludes, “too often it
will be poor people whose adaptive capacities are the most constrained” (Mortimer et
al., 2009, emphasis added). This forms the basis for a strong argument in favour of public
policies to support adaptation by poor producers, on the grounds of human rights,
economic development and environmental sustainability.The most effective
adaptations will require substantialpublic and private investments in irrigation and to
support “crop varieties and animal breeds that are tolerant to heat, water and low
fertility stresses”, and to build roads and marketing infrastructure to improve small
farmers’ access to critical inputs as well as to output markets (Dinar et al., 2008). For
both crop production and animal husbandry, diversification(of crops and varieties, and
of breeds) is acentrally important adaptation strategy that may be pursued
autonomously (‘private adaptation’) by farmers but needs to be accompanied and
anticipated by ‘public adaptation’ –these shifts in production should be planned for,
researched, and supported through government policies. Planting different varieties of
the same crop –and maintaining seed varieties –is also a key adaptationstrategy, to
limit possibilities of total harvest failure. There is an important role therefore for research
on robustness of seed varieties, and extension services to advise on crop choice and
planting times, as precipitation and temperature changes are felt. Similarly,“adaptation
by livestock farmers includes changing seasonal grazing migrations to take advantage
of alternative forage when their usual grazing is damaged by drought. More water-
efficient production technologies will be essential in South Africa, as will rainwater
harvesting for smallholder production” (Dinar et al., 2008). (ibid)
While it can be argued that not all of these suggestions may be entirely relevant to smallholder
producers, the underlying principle of the need to embed local adaptations into a macro-adaptation
framework is sound. There also needs to be recognition that different adaptations are appropriate in
different circumstances, and need to be contextually located.
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In contrast to much of the literature that emphasises the need for greater investment in
irrigation, a major study by three respected institutions –IIED, IUCN and UNDP –shows how
drylands can be resilient ecosystems and, in the face of climate change, people living and
producing in drylands are themselves already resilient. IIED promotes a ‘resilience paradigm’ to
responding to climate change in drylands, in which the priority is development that can promote
sustainability –rather than degrading resources. More production is needed in drylands, not
less, and producers in marginal areas should have stronger, more secure rights to natural
resources. Enabling policy should focus on valuing dryland ecosystems, restoring investment,
linking up with effective (and equitable) markets, and rebuilding institutions (Mortimer et al.,
The DAFF Agricultural Policy Action Plan (DAFF, APAP, 2015) 2015-2019 takes things furtherwith a
section entirely devoted to CSA. This shows a broadening understanding of and commitment to CSA,
which is worth quoting here:
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries supports the development and
implementation of climate-smart agriculture as a means of adaptation and mitigation
against the adverse impacts of climate change. Climate-smart agriculture in South Africa
would be based on the following production systems, namely organic farming, agro-
ecology and conservation agriculture.
1. The development of CSA framework / strategy -AFF sector should mobilise stakeholders
to discuss and develop the concept document on CSA within the MTSF period and
identify/appoint suitable service provider to finalise the CSA framework.
2. Up-scaling of the CSA concept and practices by/among all farmers in all the nine (9)
provinces –there is a need for tailored and locally driven capacity building programmes
on CSA among farmers.This requires a sustained and ground-truthed intervention based
on local needs and the prevailing circumstances.
3. The provision of incentives for CSA practices with special focus on small holder farmers
– attempts should be made to provide incentives to farmers in the form of tax benefits for
farmers implementing CSA through measures such as, but not limited to, reduced tax on
4. To produce more with the same amount of water - by using more efficient irrigation
methods & water demand management
1. The up-scaling of the LandCare programme under the Conservation of Agricultural
Resources Act (CARA), 1983 (Act 43 of 1983), by improved alignment, coordination and
2. Between and among national, provincial and local spheres of government - Align CSA
policy framework and programme with sector departments and provinces
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3. Between state, state entities, academia and private sector entities - Improve
collaboration between government and private sector entities including academic and
4. Approvalof the irrigation strategy –adopt irrigation strategy to guide water demand
management and water use efficiency.
In the Action Plan it is encouraging to see the reference to the development of a CSA capacity building
programme (scheduled for 2016/17) for extension officers and large-scale commercial farmers, with
demonstrations in all 9 provinces. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that this target has been
reached, or even attempted with any rigour. Also, there seems nothing planned in terms of capacity
building at the smallholder level, although as it is with the smaller-scale emerging farming sector with
which the extension services are most involved; perhaps this is seen as being covered by the capacity
building of the extension officers. This may not, though, be a realistic assumption or an adequate
response to the needs for capacity building. The final reference to a ‘platform for knowledge sharing’
(scheduled for 2015/16) is also encouraging, but there is little evidence of the existence of such a
platform, and if it is intended tobe a web-based platform it may well be inaccessible to many farmers.
Further research is now requiredto see how the department is meetingthese output targets. With
regard to the National CSA Research and Development programme, scheduled for 2015/2016 for
action by the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), nothing yet appears available in the terms of
research outputs or policy recommendations. However, on Earth Day, 22 April 2016 the ARC made
the following commitment:
“The Agricultural ResearchCouncil (ARC), South Africa, is committed towards research
focusing on climate smart and sustainable agriculture for South Africa and Africa. Many
of the ARC projects focus on conducting research that is environmentally sustainable and
economically viable for the end user. Some of these key research projects fall under
Conservation Agriculture (CA), which is fairly new in
South Africa but increasing in popularity because of its
low input and environmentally sustainable agronomical
practices. ARC-GCI has several projects investigating
aspects such as insect and weed dynamics in CA systems
as well as how crop yields are affected when these
principles are applied. Dr Nel reports that the outcomes
of CA projects are positive at this stage and have shown
promise under adverse drought conditions.”(ARC, 2016)
From the interest expressed by both DAFF and the ARC in CSA– and CA, in particular-- it would seem
that now is an opportune time for research into farmer innovation around CSA and related agricultural
practices. However there may beone note of caution in that the approach to CA being adopted by the
ARC involves the development of modified ‘transgenic’ seeds as promoted bythe Water Efficient
Maize for Africa (WEMA) partnership programme with which the ARC is involved:
The Water Efficient Maize for Africa has created a large following with the positive
results it has had to offer since its inception in 2008. The WEMA project is public-private
partnership and aimed to produce low-cost drought tolerant conventional and
transgenic (GM) hybrids that give at least 25% yield advantage under moderate drought
“CA is definitely the way
forward for climate smart
agriculture in SA as the use of
fossil fuels and the release of
carbon from the soil is
-Dr Andre Nel, Agricultural
Research Council (ARC) of
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The first WEMA Drought TEGOTM hybrid WE3127 was launched in December 2014. The
variety received positive feedback from the various representatives of farmers and
extension officers that received 10 000 promotional seed packs during the launch. To
date, the ARC has released and registered ten Drought TEGOTM hybrids with
predominant characteristics of drought tolerance and high yield potential under optimal
While the overall approach adopted by the ARC can be considered in some ways compatible with a
more agroecological approach to CSA, the promotion of such seeds is certainly not consistent with
strengthening food sovereignty. Understandings of CSA are therefore likely to vary according to the
agendas being pursued by various stakeholders.
The policy context for CSA in South Africa would appear at firstglance to be fairly robust, and well
informed by global research and trends. However, the proof will be in the implementation of the
various policies, strategies and plans, and to date there is little evidence of this happening at any scale.
It may be that the work of the Project will have some influence in increasing the focus on CSA for
smallholder famer across the country.
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2APPLYING CSA IN THE CONTEXT OF SMALLHOLDER FARMING IN
2.1Issues shaping the context of smallholder farming in South Africa
Development in South Africa is inextricably tied to massive
challenges rooted in both the past and inthe future. In the
past, colonial appropriationand control of access to resources
was taken to disastrous extremes through the policies of
apartheid; twenty-three years into democracy poverty and
dispossession still plague us. At the same time, problems
anticipated in the future already loom large: South Africa as a
water stressed country can expect to face particularly difficult
challenges in terms of food security due to the increased
temperatures and pests and decreased water access
anticipated to result from climate change. In 2011 the
government reported that climate changewas already
impacting South Africa, with greater variations in
temperature and rainfall and rising sea levels (South Africa,
2011). The issues of who should have land and why are
increasingly linked not only to redressing historical injustices
but also to achieving resilience, sustainable livelihoods and
food security under the challenging conditions of the future.
Development is a double-edged sword: economic
development and population growth are the main drivers of
increased C02emissions (Sims and Kienzle, 2015). We cannot
afford fordevelopment agendas to be preoccupied with
problems inherited from the past without considering the
impact of the strategies used on the future. While agriculture
is a main contributor to greenhouse gases, it also offers
powerful options for combating climate change. Climate Smart Agriculture engages both the historical
and future challenges that must be addressed within development programmes by working for
sustainable increases in productivity, increased resilience and food security and reduction of
This section explores the issues of access to and use of land, livelihood and food security.
South Africa’s vision in 1994:
“No political democracy can survive and
flourish if the mass of our people remain
in poverty, without land, without tangible
prospects for a better life. Attacking
poverty and deprivation must therefore
be the first priority of a democratic
-The Reconstruction and
Development Programme (SA, 1994)
South Africa’s vision for the present:
“Unless emissions are checked soon,
development will be reversed in many
parts of the world, bringing major
economic decline …
The political challenge in the next two
decades will be to develop policies and
regulatory initiatives that prompt
improved resource management and
deliver substantial clean-technology
industries. This will include policies that
help people cope with new risks during
the transition, adapting land and water
management to protectlivelihoods and
threatened natural environments, while
transforming energy systems.”
-National Development Plan for 2030
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Land and livelihood
In 1994, South Africa’s first democratically elected governmentundertook to transfer 30% of the 86
million hectares of white-owned agricultural land to black South Africans by 1999; by 2016 only 9%
had been transferred, however (Cousins, 2016). Only about half of the land reform projects have
brought improvements – which are often limited - to the livelihoods of beneficiaries (ibid).
The 2015 General Household Survey found that 58% of households reported
salaries/wages/commission as their main sources of income, while 21,7% listed social grants as their
main source of income. The dependence on grants was greatest in the Eastern Cape, (37,6%), Limpopo
(33,2%), Northern Cape (32,1%) and KwaZulu-Natal (28,0%) (StatsSA, 2016). The percentage of
householders involved in agricultural production varied widely by province, with the highest
percentages in Limpopo (43,8%), Eastern Cape (33,4%), Mpumalanga (28,7%) and KwaZulu-Natal
(20,3%) as shown in the table below:
Figure 2 Percentage of households involved in agricultural activities by province in 2015 (StatsSA, 2016)
Over three-quarters (77,9%) of those householdsinvolved in agriculture did so to secure additional
food; this was most prevalent in Limpopo (93,2%), Eastern Cape (84,5%) and Mpumalanga (77,6%) as
shown in the table below. In KwaZulu-Natal, 17,2% of households involved in agriculture indicated
that they did so to create their main source of food. Almost a fifth (19,5%) of households involved in
agriculture in the Northern Cape attempted to create an additional source of income.
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Figure 3 Percentage distribution of the main reasons for agricultural involvement by practice in 2015 (StatsSA, 2016).
Food security is a function of the availability of food (is enough food produced?),access to food (can
people get it, and afford it?), utilisationof food (how local conditions bear on people’s nutritional
uptake from food) and the stabilityof the food supply (is the supply and access ensured?). Strong
consensus exists that climate change will have a significantly negative impact on all these aspects of
food security in Africa.
Food availability could be threatened through the direct impact of climate change on crops and
livestock --such as increased flooding, drought,shifts in the timing and amount of rainfall and high
temperatures --or indirectly through increased soil erosion from more frequent, heavy storms or
through increased pest and disease pressure on crops and livestock caused by warmer temperatures
and other changes in climatic conditions. Food access could be threatened by climate change impacts
on productivity in important cereal-producing regions of the world, which, along with other factors,
could raise food prices and erode the ability of the poor in Africa to afford purchased food. Access is
also threatened by extreme events that impair food transport and other food system infrastructure.
Climate change could impact food utilisation through increased disease burden that reduces the ability
of the human body to absorb nutrients from food. Warmer and more humid conditions caused by
climate change could impact food availability and utilisation through increased risk of spoilage of fresh
food and pest and pathogen damage to stored foods (cereals, pulses, tubers) that reduces both food
availability and quality. Stability could be affected by changes in availability and access that are linked
to climatic and other factors.
The percentage of respondents to the South African General Household Survey who reported that
adult or child members of the household went hungry decreased from 29,3% in 2002 to 13,7% in 2007;
since then it has dropped only slightly to 13,1% in 2011 and has remained static until 2015 (StatsSA,
2016). In 2009, a setof questions based on Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) was added
to the General Household Survey to determine households’ accessto food with greater sensitivity.
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These questions explored modifications made to diet or eating patterns due to limited sources of food.
The index showed that the percentage of households that had limited access to food decreased only
slightly from 23,9% in 2010 to 22,6% in 2015. Inadequate or severelyinadequatefood access was most
common in North West (39%), Mpumalanga (31,7%), Northern Cape (31,3%) and Eastern Cape(28,4%)
The Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (PACSA) calculates on a monthly basis the
typical expenditure of a low-income household on food –the “Food Basket”. Figure 4 shows how
under the conditions of drought and high temperatures during 2015 the cost of a Food Basket
(nutritionally inadequate) rose from around R1 110 in July 2015 to R2 095 in January 2016, while
PACSA’s calculation for the Minimum Nutritional Food Basket (which provides complete nutrition)
rose to R4 453 (PACSA, 2017).
Figure 4 The impact of the 2015 drought on the price of the PACSA Food Basket from November 2015 to April 2017 (PACSA,
As the price of the core foods (maize meal, rice, cake flour, cooking oil, sugar and sugar beans)
prioritised by women in these households rose by 25% over their price before the drought, the ability
of women to secure additional foods to ensure a balanced nutrient intake was compromised, with
expected negative impacts on health, immunity and development of children (ibid). PACSA also
reports that while real inflation on food prices has increased by about 16% over 2015/2016, old age
pensions –which in the South African context is typically used to take care of households, not
individuals – were increased by only 6% (Mgabadeli, 2017).
Inaddition to climactic pressures which have already begun to impact vulnerable households,
population growth is likely to place increasing strain on resources. The global population is expected
to exceed 9 billion by 2050; in South Africa the population is anticipated to increase by 10.2% from
2015 to 60 million in 2030,with the urban population growing twice as fast as the general rate and
less than 30% in rural areas by 2030 (Euromonitor International, 2016). Globally food production will
need to have increased by up to 70% from 2007 levels; rates of growth in the yield of major crops
however, have begun to fall due, in part, to the degradation of agriculturalland(Sims and Kienzle,
2015). Climate change is expected to cause the number of malnourished children to increase by 8.5-
10.3% across developing countries (Nelson et al, 2014).
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These factors, combined with the systematic decreased in the number of smallholders who are
farming, demonstrate the extreme vulnerability of rural, poor SouthAfricanhouseholds in terms of
2.2South Africa’s smallholder agricultural producers
Access to agricultural land
While acrossdeveloping countries smallholder farms produce about 80% of food (Sims and Kienzle,
2015), the situation in South Africa is atypical. The agricultural sector comprises approximately
350,000 white farmers producing around 95% of agricultural output on 87% of the nation’s agricultural
land, and 4 million low-producing black smallholderfarmers employing 13% of agricultural land –
primarily in the former homelands (Aliber and Hart, 2009).
There was a 19% drop in the number of householdsengaged in agriculture from 2011 (2,88 million
households) to 2016 (2,33 million households) (Stats SA, 2016b). The bulk of households engaged in
agriculture in 2016 were in KwaZulu-Natal (23%), Eastern Cape (21%) and Limpopo (17%) (ibid). In
these three provinces, the percentage of households which were engaged in agriculture ranged from
to 28% in Eastern Cape (down from 35% in 2011) to 17% in KZN (down from 28% in 2011) and 24% in
Limpopo (down from 33% in 2011) (ibid).
The table below, showing South African householders’ access to agricultural land in 2006, illustrates
the very difficultconditions smallholders may farm under, with 64,5% of the1.3 million households
represented having access to less than 0.5ha of agricultural land.
Table 1 South African Households’ Access to Agricultural Land (StatsSA 2006)
South African Households’ Access to Agricultural Land (StatsSA 2006)
1 307 710
While this means on the one hand that there is enormous potential for South Africa’s smallholders to
increase productivity to both better secure their own livelihoods and food security and to contribute
to increased national demands for agricultural products, it also means that agricultural resources and
support and distribution systems are heavily focussed on large-scale, commercialised agriculture.
Characterisation of smallholder farmers
As described earlier, the agricultural sector in South Africa is dualistic, with awell-developed
commercial sector, comprising about 35,000 units which are mostly white-owned, and a small-scale
farming sector comprising about 3million units which are mostly black-owned (Cousins, 2015 in Smith
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et al, 2017). The situation of smallholders is worlds apart from that of the large-scale commercial
farmers and within this group there are vast differences. Broad distinction within this structure are
show in Table 2.
Table 2 The agrarian structure of South Africa in 2014 (from Cousins, 2015 in Smith et al, 2017)
Top 20% of large-scale commercial
farmers on private land; almost all
Sophisticated, specialized, capital-intensive
farmers, producing for export or for agro-
processing and large retailers; produce bulk of
produce, perhaps as much as 80%
Medium- to large-scale commercial
farmers on private land; almost all
Some farmers succeed, some struggle, some
are unable to earn a living from farming alone
Small- to medium-scale commercial
farmers on private land; mostly
white, some black
Many cannot survive from farming alone;
includes hobby farmers
Small-scale black capitalist farmers in
communal areas and in land reform
5,000 – 10,000
Many farmers earn income from off-farm
incomes and businesses in addition to farming
Market-oriented black smallholder
farmers in communal areas and land
reform contexts, supplying tight
value chains (e.g. under contract)
5,000 - 10,000
Many grow fresh produce under irrigation,
others are livestock producers, and a few
engage in dryland cropping
Market-oriented black smallholder
farmers in communal areas and land
reform contexts, supplying loose
200,000 - 250,000
Many grow fresh produce under irrigation, and
others are livestock producers. Few depend
wholly on farming
farmers growing food for themselves,
and selling occasionally
2 million - 2.5
Most crop production takes place in
homestead gardens, some of which are quite
large. Occasional livestock sales by some
Pienaar and Traub (2015) note that farming households in South Africa’s rural areas typically pursue
a variety of livelihood strategies on the basis of the available natural, physical, human and financial
capital and these are also to a large extent dependent on biophysical and socio-economic conditions.
In 2014 the government stated that half of all smallholder households live below the poverty line
(DAFF, 2014). Apart from the land reform issues discussed above, the proportion of South Africans
living in rural areas has declined from 50% to 40% since 1994; by 2030 it is expected to have dropped
to 30% (South Africa, 2011). The trend is for men to go to urban areas, leaving women, the elderly and
children as the “farm power” in rural areas (Sims and Kienzle, 2015).
In the context of a Smallholder Farmer Innovation Programme (SFIP) implemented by Grain SA in
Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal among smallholders in the community that has been targeted for this study,
smallholder farming systems and farmer categories were differentiated as shown in Table 3Error!
Reference source not found. below (Smith et al, 2017).
Table 3 Farmer segmentation in the Bergville smallholder farming system (Smith et al, 2017)
loose value chains
tight value chains
% of people in each
consumed by the
Production is intensified.
Selling becomes more
Consumption and sale in
various percentage mixes
Primarily for sale-
working within existing
Mahlathini Development Foundation May 201734
additional food is
but moving to more
well defined commodity
Mostly women (89%)
Mostly women (96%)
Women, men (40% ♀
Low external input
systems are used with
a minimum of bought
Mixed (low and external)
input systems are used
with a minimum of
Mixed (low and external)
input systems are used
with greater reliance
Mostly high external
Hand cultivation, animal
Animal traction, tractors
Low to high
Low to high
Low to high
Access to improved
agricultural tech and
Access to financial
Very limited if at all
Very limited if at all
Informal and some
formal through buyers
Almost non existent
Almost non existent
Informal farmers groups
Informal but growing
Very little; entirely
Limited and still informal
for the most part
Both informal and formal
Can be good due to
value chain farming
Generally not considered,
some adoption of
adoption of conservation
and sustainable practices
Some adoption of
Crop livestock mixes
focussing on 4-5
Staple crops, some cash
crops, crop livestock
mixes – focussing on 3-4
Staple crops, some cash
crops, crop livestock
mixes – focussing on 2-3
Mostly cash crops –
focusing on 1, maybe 2
Food Security: low
Monthly Income: R0-
Food Security: low-
Assets: minimal- starting
Food Security: medium-
Poverty Likelihood: low
Food Security: high
Table 4illustrates the types of agricultural production activities in which households were engaged in
2015, by province. About half cultivated grains (52%) and fruits and vegetables (51%); 34% produced
livestock. Only 12% reported getting agriculture-related support from the government.
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Table 4 Nature of agricultural activities per province in 2015 (SAStats, 2016)
In its National Development Plan (NDP) 2030, the South African governmentpositions “smallholder
agriculture”as the driver of rural development (South Africa, 2011) and in 2014 the Department of
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries increased its budget to smallholder support programmes to R2.38
billion (DAFF, 2014).While the Agricultural Policy Action Plan (DAFF, 2015) reviews how the number
of commercial farming units and the employment opportunities in the agricultural sector has steadily
declined since 1950, it undertakes to increase the small holder sector by 300,000 and expand the
number of smallholders sellingtheir produce from 200,000 to 500,000 by 2020 (DAFF, 2014). The
Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (South Africa, 2012) proposes that small-scale
producers be differentiated into the roughly 200,000 “emerging farmers” who sell their produce and
“smallholder farmers” – the remainder who produce for household consumption.
Cousins (2010) argues that using terms such as “smallholder”presume a
homogeneity and a set of common interests within this group that is
misleading. This hinders an accurate understanding of the processes which
contribute to inequalities and the tensions within households over the use
of land, labour and capital. Policies and initiatives which do not work with
divergent interests and differences are likely to fail. He argues for the use
of a class-analytic differentiation between smallholders who are engaged
in “accumulation from below”--who generate a surplus resulting in potential for profit and capital
accumulation and those who are engaged in “petty commodity production” –where farming
represents one aspect of their livelihood scheme and advocates that differentiated policies should be
developed for these differentiated producers. He suggests initiatives targeted at different producers
commercial farm model
informs assessments of
“viability” and shackles
thinking about how to
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Improving access to andproductivity on irrigated land by accumulators from below should be a
key focus foragrarian reform. Subdivision of large farms into smaller, privately-owned and self-
containedunits is suggested as the tenure option for small-scale capitalist farmers, but not for
pettycommodity producers and worker-peasants, who can be highly productive within
communaltenure systems. Worker-peasants who engage in agricultural production in a
significantscale could be key beneficiaries of a livestock improvement programme, which needs
totake account of the fact that members of this category are often at home in rural areas at
weekends or on holidays. Pension payment days, on which largenumbers of local residents
regularly gather at a designated site, provide a key opportunity for inputs supply, marketing
and extension programmes aimed at supplementary foodproducers in communal areas
Smallholder farming systems
Within smallholderfarming systems people practice a mixed farming approach and use available
natural resources in the commonages. Access to resources (land, water and natural resources)
depends to an extent on what and how much is available and on the local arrangements that are in
place, ie. which are managed through the traditional and local authorities. In theory, everyone has
access; in practicethis translates to those who can leverage resources through individual influence
Mixed farming in communal tenure areas consists of homestead plots, fields and communal grazing
Homestead plots,as the word indicates, are situated around the farmers’ homes and range in size
from around 500m2 to around 0,5ha. These plots may or may not be fenced and in the more formally
planned villages will have some access to a municipal supply of water. Water supply however is
severely restricted in most cases to the municipal allocation of 20 litres per person per day – and only
if that water is available. Shared, communal standpipes outside people’s yards are the most common
form of access to water. This means that for around 90% of smallholdersthey only have access to as
much water as they can carry to their homes on any given day. This water is used primarily for
household needs. This means that dryland cropping is still common even within homestead plots and
that more intensive productiveactivities such as vegetable and fruit production and rearing of small
livestock usually is done only if additional sources of water can be accessed, either through the
municipal systems --which is not common --or through access to springs and streams nearby. A very
limited number of individuals have their own boreholes.
Fieldsare generallyallocated to individuals and are often not in direct proximity to the homesteads.
Sizes range from 0,1ha - 5ha, averaging around 1ha in size. Historically these have been used primarily
for field cropping grains (maize, sorghum, millet), pumpkin species and legumes (sugar beans). Fields
may be fenced or unfenced and are worked by hand or by paying for private or government-based
mechanisation services. At this scale, a number of group projects exist in the communal tenure areas
and in some cases projects run by government and non-government organisations have included
irrigation options. A very small percentage (around 1-5%) of individuals have set up their own
Mahlathini Development Foundation May 201737
Communal grazing is managed on a village level and livestock are allowed to graze in and around the
villages and fields in winter months and adjacent veld, bush and hillsides during summer. Individual
smallholders often have kraals for their livestock and pay towards herding and dipping systems for
their livestock. Mostly these systems apply to cattle and sheep. In the past goats were not herded, but
due to increasing pressure on grazing areas and conflicts related to livestock destroying crops and
gardens this is becoming more common. Rangeland management is notoriously difficult in these
communal tenure areas and the quality and quantity of grazing appears to be in an almost continual
decline. Systems for fodder production, supplementary feeding and rotational grazing are not
Natural resources are harvested extensively for firewood, thatch, reed and grass crafts, food (eg. wild
leafy greens) and medicinal purposes. Very few systems for control, management and regeneration
of natural resources are currently in place and in addition wide scale poverty and population pressure
in the communal tenure areas have led to overuse of resources and denuding of the commons.
Figure 5 below outlines the typical average monthly water demand of a household. On average, most
households receive around one fifth of this allocation of water.
Figure 5 Household water requirements and access (Kruger, 2016)
Climate change impacts on smallholder farming systems
The more extreme weather patterns with increased heat, decreased precipitation and more extreme
rainfall events; increase of natural hazards such as floods, droughts, hailstorms and high winds that
characterise climate change place additional pressure on smallholder farming systems and has already
led to severe losses in crop and vegetable production and mortality in livestock (Madondo and Kruger,
2016, pers comm). A significant proportion of smallholders have abandoned agricultural activities and
Mahlathini Development Foundation May 201738
this number is still on the increase(NIDS, 2012). Smallholders are generally not well prepared for these
more extreme weather conditions and experiencehigh levels of increased vulnerability as a
consequence (Manderson, Kubayi, & Drimie, June 2016).
It is becoming clear that climate change will have drastic consequences for low-income and otherwise
disadvantaged communities. Despite their vulnerability, these communities will have to make the
most climate adaptations (Fenton, Reid, & Wright, 2015). It is possible for individual smallholders to
manage their agriculturaland natural resourcesbetter and in a manner that could substantially reduce
their risk and vulnerability generally and more specifically to climate change. Through a combination
of best bet options in agro-ecology, water and soil conservation, water harvesting, conservation
agriculture and rangeland management a measurable impact on livelihoods and increased
productivity can be made (Hansford, 2010.)
2.3Theoretical framework of the project
The farmers with whom the project will be workingface innumerable challengesincluding lack of
resources (financial and other); limited access to technologies; limited skills; limited access to markets;
limited understanding of the concept of climate change; high levels of dependence on social grants;
and, for many, limited and/or insecure access to land. They also farm in some of the more
agriculturally marginal areas of the country, and often in areas which are vastly overpopulated in
terms of the land’s capacity to support them –areas which suffer from considerable degradation of
the natural resource base, including loss of forests, extreme soil erosion and loss of functioning
The aim of this project is to assist farmers with identifying the practices most appropriate for their
areas and their style of farming and encourage them to experiment with and innovate practices which
can increase their resilience tothe ongoing challenges presented by climate variability and/or long-
This section looks at how the project will endeavour to achieve this aim in terms of the theoretical
approaches and tools that will be used, engaging local and traditional knowledge, and its potential for
achieving mitigation of climate change.
Approaches and tools to be used in the project
Climate Smart Agriculture is the overarching approach that will be used to inform the methodology of
this project. All CSA practices, regardless of which agricultural approach they are derived from, are
essentially practices that are beneficial for improving both the productivity of the landand the
sustainability of the farming enterprises. In this way they should also improve the potential for
strengthening food security and livelihoods. They are practices which, whatever the situation (except
perhaps for the most marginalised areas) have the potential to directly benefit farmers and increase
food production in the communities asa whole, irrespective of any climate change predictions.
However, they also have the capacity tobuffer farmers against any increases in temperature or
changes in rainfall quantities and patterns occasioned by climate change.
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The CSA approach incorporates institutional, economic, social and environmental factors as well (FAO,
2013). This project will draw particularly on technologies developed within the Conservation
Agriculture (CA), Agro-ecology, and Soil and Water Conservation (SWC) practices which fall under CSA.
The diagram below illustrates CSA as an overarching concept.
planning and policies
Climate smart agriculture
Figure 6 The FAO concept of CSA as an overarching approach to sustainable development (Arslan, 2014)
Climate smart interventions are highly location-specific and knowledge-intensive. Considerable effort
can be required to develop the necessary knowledge and capacities to make CSA a reality.
Implementing CSA practices often requires shifts in the way land, water, soil nutrients and genetic
resources are managed to ensure that these resources are used more efficiently. Two joint principles
guide the necessary changes of systems: more efficiency in the use of resources, to increase
production while reducing emissions intensity of the food produced and consumed, and more
resilience, to get prepared to variability and change. In large part, these are the same efforts required
for achievingsustainable agricultural development which have been advocated over past decades, yet
still insufficiently realised on the ground.
CSA methodologies employ site-specific assessments to identify suitable agricultural production
technologies and practices which should prioritize the strengthening of livelihoods, especially those
of smallholders, by improving access to services, knowledge, resources (including genetic resources),
financial products and markets.
As the implementation of existing policies and strategies at national and regional level for support to
smallholders is fragmented at best, the approach in this study will be to work directly with
smallholders in local contexts to improve practices and synergise across sectors. The emphasis is thus
at farm/household level. Here CSA aims to improve aspects of crop production, livestock and pasture
management, as well as soil and water management as depicted in the diagram in Figure 7.
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Figure 7 Household level implementation of CSA integrates across sectors (Arslan, 2014)
This research study aims to design a framework of methodologies, associated processes and a
selection of best bet practices, informed by the issues that have been discussed, which can be used to
assess, implement and monitor likely local CSA strategies.
An example is provided in the slide below for a research effort that explored adoption of practices
across 130 projects across sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America (Knowler and Bradshaw, 2007). This
analysis was conducted in 2003, well before South Africa formulated a coherent response process.
Mahlathini Development Foundation May 201741
3 main principles of CA:
minimal soil disturbance,
permanent soil cover, and
Crop Management: Conservation Agriculture and Soil-Water Conservation
debate on the effects of CA on
yields and resilience.
•Need to customize & modify
the 3 principles to various
•Need to explicitly account for
climate change impacts
“approach to managing agro-ecosystems for
improved and sustained productivity, increased
profits and food securitywhile preserving and
enhancing the resource base and the
Source: Knowler,2003. Positivenetpresent values(NPV) forconservation
agriculture and othersoil and waterconservation practicesatthe farm-level
from a total sample of130 studies.
Other soil and water conservation
(e.g. ridging, shelterbelts, terracing,
bunding, agro-forestry, woodlots,
taungya, stone lines, strip cropping,
vetiver, animaltraction, drainage
Figure 8 Exploration of CA and SWC practices for crop management
Knowler and Bradshaw (2007) further explored the viability of synthesising adoption of suchpractices
into a set of universal variables that could be used for both assessment and policy with the aim that
these variables would then become part of a decision support system to beused for assessing
implementationstrategies and practices. They found however that there were very few, if any,
universal variables that could explain adoption of climate smart practices and recommendedthat
efforts for promotion be tailored to reflect particular conditions and individual localities -- this
foreshadowed the approach that was later promoted by the FAO.
The Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), has developed a participatory
climate change and food security vulnerability assessment toolkit, and a decision support system for
identifying appropriate CSA practices (CGIAR, 2017). Both of these will also inform the project’s work
Working with local and traditional knowledge in the implementation of CSA
Most of the CSA practices with which the project will be concerned are likely to be quite site specific,
which makes local and traditional knowledge extremely relevant for implementing such practices at a
ground (community) level. It should be acknowledged that some of the CSA practices correspond with
many existing local practices. Local and traditional knowledge is deeply embedded in many
communities and the associated practices are considered cost effective and easy to out-scale to other
Mahlathini Development Foundation May 201742
The literature indicates that for adoption of CSA practices to be successful it should be built on existing
local and traditional knowledge (FAO, 2013). However, local understanding of thepractices and
reasons to take up a practice often differs to that in the scientific domain. It is important for
development practitioners and researchers to have some understanding of the local and traditional
knowledge to allow better implementation of improved practices (e.g. CSA practices). Building links
between the scientific information and local and traditional knowledge presents a potential
opportunity for developing a holistic approach for dealing with the negative impacts of climate change
at community level. The Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD) is implementing a
programme to increase resilience in the Olifants River Basin-the approach, involving systemic social
learning, is one example of this (Kruger and Selala, 2017; AWARD, 2017 ).
It is important tonote that the depths of such knowledge and the implementation of such practices
varies considerably between communities in different areas across South Africa. In areas with a long
continuous tradition of indigenous agricultural practices, such knowledge is strong and the practices
well understood. Such areas include much of Limpopo Province, and the coastal sections of the former
Transkei homeland in the Eastern Cape Province, historically inhabited by the amaPondo and
amaThembu clans. However, in many other areas –such as those to which people were forcibly
relocated during the establishment of the former homelands --there is not such a long continuous
tradition and many of the farming practices have been derived from people’s acquaintance, often as
farm labourers, with the conventional agriculture practiced by the white commercial farmers. Even
in these areas, however, it is possible to find traditional practicessuch as ‘matamo’ (constructionof
small ponds) or ’gelesha’ (ripping the ground to improve infiltration, prior to planting)(Dension and
Communities are already needing to uselocal, traditional and indigenous knowledge to help cope with
the negative impact of climate change. This includes knowledge of food preservation techniques (e.g.
fermentation and sun drying), knowledge of indigenous plants (e.g. for use in natural pest control),
seed selection to avoid drought and disease control inlivestock. The list below shows someother
local and traditional practices which correspond with CSA principles and practices:
Seasonal weather forecasting (Use of shift in seasonal migration for birds as an indicator for
Selection of seed to avoid the risk of drought and pest
Water harvesting techniques (e.g. roof water harvesting)
Use of ash for seed preservation
Soil and water conservation using planting basins, furrows and ridges
Use of sunken and raised beds to accommodate for water holding capacity and soil types
Mixed cropping or intercropping and diversification
Use of supplementary feed for livestock
Preservation of pasture for use by young, lactating and sick animals in cases of drought
Transhumance to avoid risk of livestock loss
Culling of weak livestock for food
Diversification in the herd to survive climate extremes (Kruger and Selala, 2017).
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CSA may provide a valuable opportunity to revive local and traditional knowledge and practices, as
they have considerable potential for amelioration of some of the negative impacts of climate change
on small-scale agriculture.
Potential for mitigation through this approach
The actual contribution of smallholder farming systems to climate change is debatable but is generally
accepted to be comparatively low (Manderson et al. 2016). Mitigation within the smallholder context
would fall primarily within the ambit of increasing carbon stocks through sequestration in the soil.
Limited and isolated attempts have been made to set up carbon trading arrangementsfor smallholder
communities, mostly around the concept of preserving natural vegetation and forests(Turpie et al.
Systems have been explored for payment for ecosystem services for communities based in high
priority water provisioning areas such as the Drakensberg escarpment (Mander et al, 2007,Blignaut
et al, 2008). These systems have been based on incentive paymentstowards good resource
management –mostly in the ambit of grazing and fire management systems. Most of these processes
have stalled after the conceptual phases due to lack of buy in by government departments, who would
need to be the custodians of such approaches (Sherbut G. 2012).
Carbon sequestration through wide scale planting of trees has been explored, but implementation
again has been halted due to lack of institutional buy in. A viable option is presently seen in
regenerative CA systems, where carbon sequestration is a veryreal option –and within the abilities
and control of individual smallholders (Smith, Pretorius, Trytsman, Habig, & Wiese, 2015; Blignaut et
al 2015). It is this latter option that could most likely be explored within the present research process.
Mahlathini Development Foundation May 201744
3KEY APPROACHES AND DEFINITIONS
3.1Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA)
As discussed earlier, CSA is not a single agricultural technology or practice that is intended to be
applied across the board; rather, it relies on site-specific assessments to identify suitable agricultural
production technologies and practices. The FAO characterises CSA as an approach that:
1. Addresses the complex interrelated challenges of food security, development and
climate change, and identifies integrated options that create synergies and benefits
and reduce trade-offs;
2. Recognizes that these options will be shaped by specific country contexts and
capacities and by the particular social, economic, and environmental situation where
it will be applied;
3. Assesses the interactions between sectors and the needs of different involved
4. Identifies barriers to adoption, especially among farmers, and provides
appropriate solutions in terms of policies, strategies, actions and incentives;
5. Seeks to create enabling environments through a greater alignment of policies,
financial investments and institutional arrangements;
6. Strives to achieve multiple objectives with the understanding that priorities need
to be set and collective decisions made on different benefits and trade-offs;
7. Prioritizes the strengthening of livelihoods, especially those of smallholders, by
improving access to services, knowledge, resources (including genetic resources),
financial products and markets;
8. Addresses adaptation and builds resilience to shocks, especially those related to
climate change, as the magnitude of the impacts of climate change has major
implications for agricultural and rural development;
9. Considers climate change mitigation as a potential secondary co-benefit,
especially in low-income, agricultural-based populations and
10. Seeks to identify opportunities to access climate-related financing and integrate
it with traditional sources ofagricultural investment finance (FAO, 2013).
While this project will incorporate all of these different aspects of CSA to some degree it is particularly
concerned with the implementation of CSAat a local level with small-scale and emerging farmers, and
is therefore informed mostly by points 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, and 8.
The FAO’s description of CSA, given above, also makes it clear that appropriate technologies that have
been developed under different agricultural regimes can be entirely compatible with the broad
concept of CSA. Within theproject there will be particular emphasis on technologies developedwithin
Mahlathini Development Foundation May 201745
the practices of Conservation Agriculture (CA), Agroecology, Natural Resource Management,
Agroforestry and Soil and Water Conservation (SWC)(McCarthy and Brubaker, 2014).
At farm/household level CSA aims to improve aspects of crop production, livestock and pasture
management, as well as soil and water management (FAO, 2015). Below, each of these elements is
Crop and Soil Management
Soil fertility management is important to ensuring the soil’s capacity to store nutrients for uptake by
plants. Management of soil fertility in the context of CSA entails adding organic matter and improving
the efficiency of nutrientinputs such as manure and compost soas to enable more production with
proportionally less inorganic fertiliser. Minimum tillage helps reduce net losses of carbon dioxide by
microbial respiration and oxidation and builds soil structure and bio pores through soil biota and roots.
Improving soil fertility helps save energy in farming and it helps sequester carbon in soil. Use of mulch
and crop residues for soil cover provides a substrate for micro-organisms living in the soil which helps
improve and maintain water and nutrientsin the soil, protects the soil surface from wind, heat and
rain and also helps regulate soil temperature by keepingit cooler (FAO, 2015). In dry conditions, soil
cover helps reduce water requirements by making more efficient use of soil water and in wetter
conditions it facilitates the infiltration of water, reducing soil erosion.
Intercropping that includes legumes which host nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their roots contributesto
optimum plant growth and reduces GHG emissions induced by fertilisers. Crop rotation, which is the
alternating of different crops over a number of seasons (e.g. planting maize inthe summer of the
current year and rotating it with soya bean in the following season), helps reduce pests and diseases
over time (FAO, CGIAR and CCAFS, 2015).
Climate change has led to a reduction in the quality and quantity of forage available for livestock as
well as increasing heat stress in animals in some regions. Improving livestock resilience and increasing
productivity is linked to other CSA practices such as soil and water management and also by including
other approaches such as paying attention to viable insurance schemes for smallholders and
niche/new local value chains.
Land management practices include methods for reducing land degradation, such as restoring
grasslands, grazing management and re-vegetation. Interventions to improve feed resources directly
increase productivity. For example, in cattle farming improved pastures, the selection of agroforestry
species and the use of nutritious diet supplements can help mitigate the effects of climate change.
Improved grazing management can contribute to carbon sequestration and emissions can be further
reduced by management of farm manure (FAO, 2013).
Forestry and Agroforestry
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Forestry and agroforestry play a pivotal role in global efforts toaddress the negative impacts of climate
change. In smallholder systems, forests form part of a complex rural landscape and provide ecosystem
services such as food, biofuel and biodiversity. Climate change threatens the delivery of these
ecosystem services as treesare an important carbon sink and their potential can be improved through
afforestation (FAO, 2013). Agroforestry involves planting trees and shrubs in agricultural production
systems- both cropping and grazing systems.This helps address the challenge of food insecurity by
increasing the adaptability of these systems by increasing sources of income, diversifying production
and spreading the risk against agricultural and market failures thus increasingthe resilience of the
production system. In smallholder farming systems, increasing the resilience of forestsystems to
enhance the flow of ecosystem services requires integrated approaches that consider the wider
landscape (FAO, 2010).
Energy inputs are an important component in feeding the world population. It is estimated that the
food sector accounts for 30% of the world’s energy consumption, however most energy is dependent
on fossil fuel which could be detrimental for food security. Many smallholder farmingcommunities
depend on harvested wood for cooking and heating and the increasing population and demand for
food will likely increase the demand for energy (Bogdanski, 2012). This could lead to a widened gap
between demand and supply and subsequently exacerbate the negative impacts of agriculture on the
environment through change in land use and increased levels of emissions. Integrated food energy
systems (IFES) is one approach to addressing these issues. It involves growing food and energy crops
on the same plot of land, such as in agroforestry systems where trees can be grown for wood and
charcoal. IFES can also be implemented through the use of by-products such as biogas from livestock
residues and animal feed from by-products of ethanol produced from maize. IFES systems such as
these are easy to implement, however more complex systems are less frequently implemented due
to the technical and institutional capacity required to implement them. These include solar thermal,
geothermal, wind and water power that have high start-up costs and require specialised support for
installation and servicing (FAO, 2010).
3.2Soil and Water Conservation (SWC)
Soil and water are fundamental to rural livelihoods. As their conservation can contribute to raising the
standard of living, this should have a central place in development strategies (IFAD, 1992). Soil
degradation as described by the IFAD (1992) is the reduction in the fertility of the soil through the
removal of soil by water, wind and exploitative cropping. This starts with the destruction of the soil
structure where pores are destroyed and cannot retain and transport water which then limits root
development and growth (International Centre for Theoretical Physics, 2010; Baptista et al, 2015).
It was estimated that as much as 65% of agricultural land in Africa had been degraded around 2
decades ago (Craswell and Latham, 1992). In addition, in the sub-Saharan African region very few
countries are yet able to curb this degradation of land while accelerating agricultural production
(International Fund for Agricultural Development, 1992; Rockstrom, 2000, FAO 2015).
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Soil cover plays a crucial role in reducing surface runoff as it absorbs impacts from droplets and slows
down water running down the slope. Soils need to be able to infiltrate water to avoid pooling and
surface channeling. Excessive tilling destroys soil structure and passages water goes through resulting
in uncontrolled flow of water. Water infiltration is also very much dependant on available soil organic
matter which acts as a sponge sucking and keeping in water for the use of plants. Water that has hit
the ground, infiltrated and been absorbed by plants can also be lost to the atmosphere. These forms
of water loss are evaporation and transpiration, collectively known as evapotranspiration (Rockstrom,
2000; ARC-Institute for Soil, Climate and water, 2009).
Degradation of soils also takes place through soil sealing, compaction and salinization. Further soil
degradation has the potential to accelerate water shortages through the destruction of water bodies,
negatively impacting on water quantity and quality and thus putting livelihoods at great risk.
Soil erosion is also impacted by the topography of the land; the length and steepness of slopes heavily
influence the severity of erosion as does soil type; with sandy and silt soil types being more erodible
than clays (International Fund for Agricultural Development, 1992).
Wind is the other major natural cause of soil erosionmore especially with continuous tillage. The
drying up of fine soils that have been greatly disturbed accelerates wind erosion.
Africa has a history of responses to land degradation, indirectly inclusive of soil and water conservation
strategies. It has been a longstanding traditional practice throughout the African continent that lands
would be left lying fallow after a few years of cultivation. This was done to allow the regeneration of
vegetative cover and build-up of nutrients in the soil (International Fund for AgriculturalDevelopment,
Some techniques that have been introduced over the years include:
Stone lines:These are built along thecontours with thepurpose of minimizing or stopping the
movement of water and soil down the slope. The length of the stone lines depends on the
length of the field but their width should be 0.4m-0.6m and should be at least o.5m high to
trap soil and water. (Food and Fertilizer Technology Centre for the Asian and Pacific Region,
1995; Mati, 2007).
Trash lines:These are lines similar to stone lines, except that organic material is used to build
up the ‘structures’. They mostly use straw and weeds collectedfrom the field and placed along
the contour. They also have potential for increasing soil fertility through cover and
Ridges:These are structures consisting of raised soil bunds running along the contour for
slowing down water thus reducing erosion.
Furrows and swales:These are structures built by digging drainage channels along the
contour; the soil is then placed either uphill to create bench terraces or downhill to increase
the infiltration capacity of the ditches.
Drainage channels or diversion ditches: These are channels that collect surface run-off and
discharge this water more carefully and safelyin another locality, such as a small pond or grass
covered area. These ditches can belined with concrete, stone or bricks, more so in areas
where there are heavy rains and large volumes of water with steep slopes. The size of the
ditch is dependent on the volume of the water flowing over the surface.
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Planting basins:These are hand dug water collectingstructures of about 20cm width and
20cm depth. These can be can also be dug before planting ensuring sufficient moisture in the
soil, after planting they can partly be left open to catch more water thus speeding up seeding
time. These are perfect for collecting water especially in drier areas and give reasonably good
yields. Organic manure or compost can be incorporated into the basins for increasedsoil
Contour ploughing:This is another method for encouraging water penetrationand conserving
soil moisture by ploughing along contours. (FFTC, 1995; Mati, 2007).
Green manures: These crops are grown specifically for improving the soil properties and the
also act as a fertilizer. These can either be planted in between crops or on land lying fallow to
be used the following season. These crops are good for improving sandy soils, high clay soils
or exploited soils that are nutrient deficient. They are normally ploughed back into the soil
when they are still green and still have a lot of nutrients in them.
Cover crops: These are similar to green manures andare crops grown specifically for covering
the surface of the soil; they protect the soil from the splash impact of the rain drops and
further reducespeed and erosivityof rainfall. Covercrops play an important role in
maintaining soil structure and replenishing organic matter increasing soil physical and
chemical properties. Theyalso provide a good environment for crop growth through
stabilizing soil temperatures.
Mulch: Mulch is almost a similar concept to that of cover crops in its purpose, but mulch
refers to crop residue or grass that is brought in to cover the soil surface. It is spread on bare
patched or in between crops or around trunk of fruit trees to increase soil moisture and
Vegetative strips:These are planted strips of vegetation such as grass and shrubs running
across slopes reducing momentum of water thus slowing it down and depositing sediment.
The continuously deposited promotes the formationof bench terraces over time. (Mati,
Windbreaks:These re similar to vegetative strips, with a slightly different function.
Windbreaks mostly consist rows of trees and/grasses that are carefully grown at certain
intervals to reduce the impact of wind on both soils and crops. For this measure tree species
with a strong root system are most suited to withstand strong winds. These are normally
positioned at right angles to the prevailing winds and along contours if that is possible.
Rainwater harvesting (RWH): There are a number of ex situ and in situ techniques that have
bene employed. Storage of the harvested water isbest done in the soil, but numerous
underground and above ground structures have also been built. Roof RWH is perhaps the
most common. This water is normally used for domestic purposes, with agricultural uses being
secondary (Food and Fertilizer Techno logy Centre for the Asian and Pacific Region, 1995; Mati,
3.3Conservation agriculture (CA)
Conservation agriculture (CA) is an approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and
sustained productivity, increased profits and food security while preserving and enhancing the
resource base and the environment. It aims tostabilize yield and improve production over time by
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protecting the soil through cover, increasing soil moisture andrestoring fertility(Kruger,Selala, &
Conservation agriculture provides potential solutions to a wide-ranging number of challenges,
including economic viability, ecological sustainability and the social acceptability of farming. It is also
a viable method for smallholder and commercial farming at all scales, addressing both food and job
Conservation agriculture speaks to a number of current conditions:
The increasing costsand decliningprofit margins of farming enterprises using conventional
The decline and collapse of soil quality and soil ecosystem services. While competitive yields
are no longer possible without the use of inorganic fertilizer, declining yields trends in some
areas show that the effectiveness of this practice is reaching its limit and that soil ecosystem
services should be restored to regain soil productivity, reduce risk and increase profitability.
Soils can be rebuilt or recuperated with CA through quality application of all its principles.
The impact of climate change on weather patterns, water regimes, biodiversity and
ecosystems services will put increasing pressure on farmers to adapt their farming systems
and management styles to increase their resilience and sustainability.
A growing awareness, knowledge and self-organisation among farmers (as stewards of the
land and natural resources), scientists and agribusiness to use and promote sustainable
agricultural practices.The networkingof these key actors creates so-called innovation
platforms, which are ideal structures to promote and scale out CA.
While greater efficiency and competitiveness is needed in farming practices, this requires
healthy soils, robust biodiversity and innovative farmers.
The need to rebuild the status and image of farming, which has been severely damaged by a
negative environmental footprint and poor socio-economic conditions. CA innovation
platforms have the ability to generate or contribute to social capital in rural societies to the
benefit of the society as a whole (Smith et al. 2017)
Conservation agricultural systems deliver multiple benefits in terms of yield, sustainability of land use,
income, timeliness of cropping practices, ease of farming and eco-system services. (Smith, Kruger,
Knot, & Blignaut, 2017). CA aims to conserve, improve and make more efficient use of soil, water and
biological(e.g plants, animals, insects and microbes) resources. CA aims to improve soil structure, soil
health and water holding capacity in the soil, which in turnreduces the degradation of land by farming
(Kruger, Selala, & Dlamini, 2016). CA increases soil organic matter content and soil moisture retention,
while sharply reducing run-off, erosion by wind and water and soil surface temperatures (helping to
protect soil biota from extreme heat). As the health of soil fauna improves, soil organisms naturally
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till the soil, drawingnutrients from the surface down into the root zone, reducing soil compaction
(thereby facilitating root penetration and water infiltration) and breaking down organic matter to
make nutrients readily available for crops (Hobbs et al., 2008). Crop rotations allow for the inclusion
of crops that contribute to increased soil fertility (e.g. nitrogen-fixing legumes).
Application of Conservation Agriculture practices facilitates other sound management practices, such
Integrated soil fertility and acidity management. CA improves soil fertility and thereby reduces
the amount of fertilizer required and saves time, money and energy. It is possible to have a
sustainable biological system without the use of fertilizers.
Integrated weed management: CA reduces the need for herbicides over time. It is possible to
have complete weed control without using chemicals.
Integrated pest and disease management: Management of pests and diseases includes crop
diversification, timing of planting, promotion of natural balances between pests and predators in
insects and naturally occurring microbes as well as physical control methods. This reduces the
need for expensive pesticides and fungicides to a minimum.
Integration of animals: Systems that include fodder production and management for livestock
create an added benefit. This practice can include winter and summer forage crops such as
Dolichos, sunn hemp, fodder rye, fodder radish and hairy vetch, as well as longer term grass
species. Besides improving the physical, chemical, biological and water holding properties of the
soil, such species, including annual or perennial cover crops, can successfully be used as animal
In terms of its economic benefits, CA aims to help farmers achieve profits by increasing yields while
reducing production costs, maintaining soil fertility and conserving water for sustainable agriculture
and improving livelihoods (Kruger and Smith, 2015). CA also reduces input costs bycutting fuel
consumption in mechanized systems (planting is done using single-pass machinery), seed costs (due
to direct planting) and fertilizer inputs, though herbicide use may increase (Knowler and Bradshaw,
2007). Pesticide use may decrease –crop rotation systems under no-till are particularly resistant to
pests and disease, since those that are crop specific have no host in the interveningyears, and because
robust soil biota increase the soil’s resistance to pathogens (Hobbs et al., 2008).
The success of CA under diverse agro-ecological conditions is now being documented in South Africa
as well and would justify investment of human and financial resources, whenever and wherever
conditions permit it (Blignaut, et al., 2015).
Three principles of Conservation Agriculture
Conservation agriculture involves three key practices which should be implemented together:
Minimum mechanical soil disturbance: The soil is not ploughed before planting; instead
seed is planted directly into a mulch-covered field using specialised no-till planters.
Permanent organic soil cover (mulching): The crop residue is left on the field, mulching is
introduced or a cover crop is planted.
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Diversified cropping (Including cover crops) : Mixing, diversifying and rotating crops
reduces weeds, controls pests and diseases and improves soil fertility (FAO, 2013).
Minimum soil disturbance
The idea is to disturb the soil as little as possible. For zero tillage, the soil is disturbed only where the
seed and fertility amendments (fertilizer, manure, compost) are to be placed. For minimumtillage
there may be lines ripped or small basins dug for planting of seed. The whole field is never ploughed.
This has the following benefits:
ominimal destruction of the soil structure
ominimal exposure of the soil to wind and water erosion
oslower mineralization of organic matter, resulting in build-up
ominimal disruption organisms in the soil which improve the soil structure
oconservers time, energy and money as there is less ploughing and fertility amendments are
placed only in the planting areas (Kruger and Smith, 2015).
Figure 9 Planting basins prepared using a hand hoe (left) and rip lines prepared using a ripper tine
The figures show some minimum soil disturbance options for smallholder farmers. Note that the
area between the planting basins and rip lines is not disturbed and that the soil is covered by a
mulch formed from crop residues. On the left are planting basins prepared using a hand hoe and on
the right are rip lines prepared using a ripper tine, with seed and fertilizer boxes attached to the
beam of a standard animal drawn plough.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) describes the advantagesand function of soil cover
In a soil that is not tilled for many years, the crop residues remain on the soil surface
and produce a layer of mulch. This layer protects the soil from the physical impact of
rain and wind but it also stabilizes the soil moisture and temperature in the surface
layers. Thus this zone becomes a habitat for a number of organisms, from larger insects
down to soil borne fungi and bacteria. These organisms macerate the mulch,
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incorporate and mix it with the soil and decompose itso that it becomes humus and
contributes to the physical stabilization of the soil structure. At the same time this soil
organic matter provides a buffer function for water and nutrients. Larger components
of the soil fauna, such as earthworms, provide a soil structuring effect producing very
stable soil aggregates as well as uninterruptedmacro-pores leading from the soil
surface straight to the subsoil and allowing fast water infiltrationin case of heavy
rainfall events. (FAO, What is Conservation Agriculture, 2017)
The soil should remain covered either with crop residues, other types of mulch or growing plants at
all times. Generally, in CA the crop residue is left on the field to cover the soil. Other types of mulch
can also be placed between the rows and planting basins or planting holes.
Figure 10 left and right: Soil cover provided by maize stover or residue from a previous season.
Mulch not only reduces soil erosion, it can reduce soil temperature by at least 4°C, creating better
conditions for soil organisms to thrive.
When properly managed, soil cover can provide the following benefits:
improved water infiltration resulting in a higher soil water content
reduced direct raindrop impact and run-off in the field; thus reducing soil erosion
reduced evaporation and improved conservation of soil moisture
even, cool soil temperature
food and habitat for soil organisms that contribute to biological processes and soil fertility
(Kruger and Smith, 2015)
While crop residue can be used to cover the soil, cover crops may be needed if the gap between crops
is too long or inareas where smaller amounts of biomass are produced (for example, semi-arid regions
or areas of eroded and degraded soils. Cover crops provide the following benefits:
Protect the soil during fallow periods
Mobilize and recycle nutrients
Improve the soil structure and break compacted layers and hard pans
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Permit a rotation in a monoculture
Can control weeds and pests (FAO, 2017).
Cover crops can be planted in relay with the main crop or included seasonally as summer or winter
mixes. Unlike commercial crops, which have greater and direct market value, cover crops are grown
to improve soil fertility or provide animal fodder directly under controlled grazing conditions or as
If used to improve soil fertility, food crops should be mixed with soil enriching crops that will:
fix nitrogen into the soil (legumes) and cycle plant nutrients
grow fast and provide a lot of above-ground (leave) and below-ground (root) biomass and
improve soil biology, soil fertility and soil structure both when they are growing and when
they are decomposing in the soil.
Figure 11 Left: A cover crop mixture of fodder rye, fodder radish and black oats growing in a maize field late in the season.
Figure 12 Right: Intercrop of cover crops (sunflower, sun hemp) and maize (Bergville, KZN)
Diversity ensures a natural balance in the field, creating a living soil, maximisingthe efficient use of
water and protecting against weeds, pests and disease attack on crops. Biodiversity on top of the soil
is mirrored by biodiversity below the soil(ie the more life there is on top of the soil, the more life there
will be below the soil) , which ideally also includes the presence of living roots in the soil for the entire
year. Maximum cover on top of the soil by plants, either living or dead, serve as armour to the soil
providing protection from excessive sun and driving rain. This keeps the soil cooler in summer and
warmer in winter. This all leads tothe build-up of carbon in the soil, which is vital for sustainability.
For every 1% of added carbon to the soil, the water holding capacity of that soil doubles (Kruger and
Mixed cropping involves plantingvarious crops together in one plot. Inter-croppinginvolves planting
different crops together at the same time while crop rotation means that different crops are planted
in the same place at different times. Using these two practicestogether maximizes their benefits.
Mixed cropping has the following benefits:
Soil fertility is replenished: nitrogen-fixing legumes add ‘top-dressing fertilizer’ to the soil
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Crops use nutrients in the soil more efficiently: different crops have different feeding zones
reducing their competition for nutrients
Pest and disease control is improved: the life cycles of pests and diseases are broken by the
introduction of a different crop
Soil structure is protected and enhanced by the presence of roots of different plants:
othe roots mobilise the soil
othe roots provide a network of living matter which later dies and rots, creating humus
owhen the roots die the spaces they leave improve the porosity and drainage of the soil
othe roots secrete weak acids to dissolve minerals in the soil then draw these back up in
solution- the function being enhanced by different root types
oroots also secrete a portion of their photosynthetic energy in the form of sugars that
feed the microbes, which in turn provide soil mineral nutrients to the roots
othe exploitation of different soil layers by different crops helps prevent the formation of
a hard pan
When using crop rotation, planting at least three different crops is optimal. A good rotation that will
also provide fodder for livestock is toplant maize in October/November, followed by a winter cover
crop of black oats for grazing planted in February/March, followed by soya beans planted the following
October/November (Kruger and Smith, 2015).
Figure 13A field inter-cropped with beans and maize planted in double rows or tramlines (From Mahlathini Organics, 2015
Figure 14A plot of maize and beans that are inter-cropped.
A note on soils
Thereis an increasedinterest in andunderstandingof soilhealthaspects in the managementof
agricultural soils. Habig and Swanepoel (2015) makes the following comments regarding soil:
Soil qualitycanbedescribed astheintegrationof the physical,chemical and
biologicalpropertiesof the soilforproductivity and environmental quality.While
fertile, high quality soil can supportlong-term agricultural production, infertile soils
must beactivelyrehabilitated in orderto achieve adequateyields(Doran & Zeiss,
2000). Thethree principlesof CA--minimumsoil disturbance, permanentsoiland
cover cropdiversification, all aim to increase and sustain soil organic matter (SOM).
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Soil organic matter in turnhas aconsiderable impact on soil biology, especiallysoilmicrobial
diversity and activity.
Habig and Swanepoel go on to say that
...stimulationof microorganismsin therhizosphereand the improved physical
condition of soilsin crop rotations and mixedcroppingsystems havebeenobserved,
particularlywhen the cropping systemshave contained legumespecies.Synergistic
associationsbetween soil biota andplant roots (rhizosphere)are facilitated through
thereleaseof root exudates, leading to improvednutrient cycling,plant growth
stimulation,and diseaseresistance, resulting in increased soilquality, crop healthand
yield (Govaerts,etal., 2007).It has been argued that increased soilmicrobial diversity
will increasethe potential of an ecosystemtofunction moreefficiently undera variety
of environmental conditions (ibid).
Soil microorganisms aresensitive to soilmanagement practices andassuchbecomeimportant
earlyindicators of soil quality. Theyare a good proxyindicator for soil health. Habig and Swanepoel
Theprocessingand recoveryof essential nutrients fromaccumulatedSOMis
mediatedbysoilmicrobial functionswhichrequireextracellularenzyme activity to
process complex organic compounds intoutilizablesubunits. Levels of soil microbial
enzymes have shown significant correlation with total organic carbon and total
Both microbial diversityand enzyme activityarenow being used as indictors ofsoil healthandas
a managementtool inCAsystems. Newsoil testing systems have been designedtoincorporate
these elements and present results in a meaningfuland practical way for farmers (Haney, 2017)
Constraints to Conservation Agriculture
Conservation Agriculture has faced challenges to adoption. Farmers may also choose certain practices
within CA and disregard others depending on their circumstances. Major constraints to adoption for
smallholders, as noted by Thiefelder et al (2014), are trade-offs in mixed crop-livestock systems in that
most smallholders keep livestock such as cattle, sheep and goats which require the crop residue for
fodder, leaving inadequate soil cover. Other constraints noted are the intensity anddifficulty of
control of weeds on CA plots, labour constraints and lack of access to inputs and markets.
Agroecology as an approach emphasises the need to maintain productivity in agriculture while also
minimising negative environmental and socio-economic impacts. Agroecology draws, naturally, on the
fundamental principles of ecology itself, in particular the way in which natural ecosystems work:
Interconnection: Nature as a network of interconnected living systems
Cycles: A constant cycling of matter throughout an ecosystem, making maximum use of all
components and eliminating waste
Energy: Solar energy captured through a diversity of plants powers the system
Partnerships: Ecosystem components operating in collaboration rather than competition
Diversity: Ecosystems derive strength and resilience through diversity
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Dynamic balance: Systems operating in a fluid dynamic balance of interactions between
components as a fluctuating network
These principles are translated into those underpinning Agroecology as:
Enhanced recycling of biomass
Secured favourable soil conditions for plant growth, through management of organic matter
and enhancing soil biotic activity
Minimised losses, through flow, of energy air and water and through micro-climate
Species and genetic diversity (including biodiversity above and below ground)
Enhanced beneficial biological interactions and synergisms between system components
Among the many vital concepts perhaps those most relevant in relation to CSA are:Resilience;
Diversity; and Synergy. Agroecology has a particular focus on these and suggests that traditional or
indigenous farming systems (often referred to as ‘peasant farming systems’) at their most functional
often reflect a strong adherence to these principles, and the challenge is to scale-up to more
commercial levels. However, as discussed earlier, even formerly robust traditional systems are under
increasing pressure from climate change (Agroecology, 2015).
Links to Food Security and Food Sovereignty: the Socio-ecological Nexus
One of the main objectives of Agroecology is to enhance both food security (in that people have
enough of the right kinds of food, readily available at all times), and food sovereignty (where people
have control over how the food is produced). For both of these the underlying principle involves a
reduction in external inputs/influences, and a correspondingincrease in farmers’ and consumers’ own
control over food production processes. This mirrors the fundamental agroecological principle of a
minimisation (ideally tozero) of external inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides, with the system itself
providing these internally. The coalition between the social and ecological components of agroecology
is intended to display the characteristics identified in list below:
High levels of interaction and synergies between different farming components,
High levels of diversity at the farm and landscape level,
High levels of independence, self-organisation and cooperation in and between social
Respect for and incorporation of traditional knowledge and practices and
And High levels of reflection, planning and development of human capital.
Links to CSA
While Agroecology is considered a preferred approach in all situations, it is suggested that it, in
particular its ability to strengthen resilience, is especially appropriate in the face of climate change
(Agroecology, 2015). See Figure 15 below:
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Figure 15: Landscape, on-farm diversity and soil and water features that enhance ecological resilience to extreme climatic
3.5Natural Resource Management (NRM)
Natural Resource Management (NRM) is about the management of natural resources in sucha
manner that ensures environmental, social and economic sustainability for both present and future
generations. Sustainable environment and natural resource management can play a significant role in
reducing poverty for people residing in ruralareas. About 75% of the world’s poor peoplelive and
rural areas and depend on natural resources for their livelihoods (Prato and Longo, 2012). The people
residing in rural areas are the most prone to challenges associated with degradation of natural
resources. They are vastly affected by the impacts of climate change; degradation of ecosystems and
biodiversity; declining of suitable agricultural land both in quality and quantity and reduction of forest
resources (IFAD, 2012). Livelihood and food securityof rural people depend highly on the productivity
of land and water resources; however, farming activities in these areas occur under very marginal
rainfed lands with increased water scarcity, energy and limited agricultural inputs.
Agricultural development is animportant tool for addressing poverty, however the intensification and
expansion of agriculture can contribute to ecosystem degradation. Well-managed agricultural
systems, however, can address elements of poverty while achieving better environmental outcomes.
At the same time, small-scale farmers are the most dependent on natural assets and are often located
in fragile, marginal and degraded areas (Lipper et al, 2009).
Effective natural resource management cannot be facilitated by one body; an integrated approach
which involves a range of stakeholdersincluding governmentdepartments, catchment management
authorities, Landcare, Bushcare and Coastalcare networks, land owners and the general community is
required (Ochola et al, 2010). This approach recognises that natural resources are not only important
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for direct use, they also support basic service provision, local economic development and social
Overview of natural resources
Natural resources can be distinguished using different frameworks. The Millennium Ecosystem
Assessment framework distinguishes natural resources as:
Provisioning services: natural resources responsible for supporting human life
Regulating services: responsible for basic ecosystem processes
Cultural services: provide non-material ecosystem benefits
Supporting services: responsible for basic long term ecosystem services.
Natural resources provide a wide range of services that support humanlivelihoods through provision
of basic soil and water resources for crop and livestock production; regulating air, water, and climatic
processes; supporting the biophysical processes of photosynthesis, soil formation and nutrient cycling;
and helping provide a diversity of social,cultural, spiritual, recreational aspects to life (IFAD, 2012).
However, more specifically, the key natural resources on which we all --including the poor --are
dependent are land, water, forests, fisheries,climate, crop genetic resources and mineral resources.
Availability and sustainability of these resources is heavily influenced by human behaviour. For
example, land quality is affected by land degradation caused by previous or current land management
practices; water availability is influenced by the efficiency of irrigation infrastructure while water
quality is affected by human actions which may lead to soil erosion and sedimentation and pollution
by agricultural, industrial and human waste; agricultural genetic resources and biodiversity have been
manipulated by both farmers and scientists through genetic selection (IFAD,2012).
In western and central Africa the major challenge with regards to natural resources is the degradation
of soil and water resources. Population growth is exerting pressure on woodland for fuelwood and
expanding agriculture (IFAD, undated). In the eastern and southern African regions deforestation, soil
fertility loss, soil compaction, water scarcity and overgrazing have been identified as the main
problems. In these areas the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has implemented
a series of climatesmart interventions to deal with theseproblems.In Lesotho,for example,it has
implemented the Machobane farming system which addresses the adverse effects of monocropping
by practising intensive relay cropping on contours for erosion control and moisture conservation. The
farming system uses wood ash and farmland manure to enhance soil fertility (IFAD, undated).
Table 5 below summarises the status of the various ecosystem services.
Table 5 Global status of provisioning, regulating, and cultural ecosystem services (adapted from FAO, 2013)
Substantial production increase
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Forest loss in some regions and growth in others
Cotton, hemp, silk
Declining production of some fibers, growth in others
Extinction and crop genetic resource loss
Extinction and overharvest
Unsustainable use for drinking, industry, and
irrigation; amount of hydro energy unchanged, but
dams increase ability to use that energy
Air quality regulation
Decline in ability of atmosphere to cleanse itself
Net source of carbon sequestration since mid-
Regional and local
Preponderance of negative impacts
Varies depending on ecosystem change and location
Increased soil degradation
Water purification and
Declining water quality
Varies depending on ecosystem change
Natural control degraded through pesticide use
Apparent global decline in abundance of pollinators
Loss of natural buffers (wetlands, mangroves)
Spiritual and religious
Rapid decline in sacred groves and species
Decline in quantity and quality of natural lands
More areas accessible but many degraded
Legislative and policy context of Natural Resource Management
The South African Constitution and legislation such as the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act
(CARA), National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA), National Environmental
Management Act (NEMA) and the Environmental Conservation Act (ECA) guide the managementof
natural resources in South Africa.
The constitution of South Africa addresses environmental rights, stating that every individual has a
a) an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being and,
b) Thave the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generation, through
reasonable legislative and other measures that:
• prevent pollution and ecological degradation.
• promote conservation.
• Secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable
economic and social development (Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 2003):
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Table 6summarises the South African environmental protection legislation responsible for ensuring
the correct management of natural resources.
Table 6 Summary of environmental protection legislation (Pollard and du Toit, 2005).
(NEMA) (107 of 1998)
Seeks to provide for cooperative environmental governance by establishing
principles for decision-making on matters affecting the environment, institutions
that will promote cooperative governance and procedures for coordinating
environmental functions exercised by organs of state. It further seeks to provide
for certain aspects of the administration and enforcement of other environmental
Conservation Act (ECA)
(73 of 1989)
Seeks to ensure effective protection and controlled utilization of the
environment, utilising an environmental impact assessment (EIA) tool.
NEMA: Biodiversity Act
(10 of 2004)
Recognises the State’s obligation to manage, conserve and sustain biodiversity
and its components and genetic resources
NEMA: Protected Areas
Act (57 of 2003)
Creates a national system of protected areas inorder toprotect and conserve
ecologically viable areas representative of biodiversity in the country. It further
seeks to achieve cooperative environmental governance and to promote
sustainable and equitable utilisation and community participation.
Act (CARA- 43 of 1983)
Seeks to provide for the conservation of natural agricultural resources by
maintaining the production potential of land, combating and preventing erosion
and weakening or destruction of water resources, protecting vegetation and
combating weeds and invader plant species.
National Water Act (36
Seeks to ensure that South Africa’s water resources are protected,used and
managed in ways which take into account factors such as inter-generational
equity, equitable access, redressing the legacy of past racial and gender
discrimination, promoting sustainable and beneficial use, facilitating social and
economic development andproviding for water quality and environmental
Marine Living Resources
Act (18 of 1998)
Provides for the conservation of the marine ecosystems, the long-term
sustainable and equitable utilisation of marine living resources and orderly,fair
and equitable access to exploitation, utilisation and protection of certain marine
National Forests Act (84
Promotes the sustainable management and development of forests for the
benefit of all
Restructures forestry in state forests to protect certain forests and trees.
Promotes community forestry and greater participation in all aspects of
Promotes sustainable use of forests for environmental, economic,
educational, recreational, cultural, health and spiritual purposes.
National Veld and
Forest Fire Act (101 of
Seeks toprevent and combat veld, forest and mountain fires and establishes a
variety of institutions, methods and practices for achieving this purpose.
This legislation is implemented and enforced at national, provincial and local levels of government, as
well as through traditional leadership structures and statutory and non-statutory bodies (Cousins et
Agroforestry is a dynamic, ecologically-based, natural resource management system that through the
integration of trees on farms and in the agricultural landscape, seeks to diversify and sustain
production for increased social,economic and environmental benefits for land users at all levels
(ICRAF, 2006). Agroforestryacknowledges the use of trees and shrubs on farms to support agricultural
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production while protecting the soil and water resources, enhancing biodiversity, carbon
sequestration and improving landscape values.
A number of different definitions for agroforestry have been put forward. The United Nations Food
and Agriculture Organisation defines agroforestry as:
‘the dynamic, ecologically based, natural resource management system that, through
integration of trees on farms and in the agricultural landscape, diversifies and sustains
production for increased social, economic and environmental benefits for land usersat
all levels’(Dawson I K et al 2013).
Other definitionsfocus on agroforestry asthe incorporation of trees into farm systems for commercial
and natural resource management benefits (JVAP, 2006).or the deliberate growing of woody
perennials on the same unit of land as agricultural crops and/or animals, eitherin some form of a
spatial arrangement or sequence; which must consist of an interaction (positive or negative) between
the woody and non-woody components of the system that is significant either ecologicallyand/or
economically (Lundgren, 1982). The rising interest in agroforestry has been motivated by several
factors including accelerated tropical deforestation, degradation and shortage of land due to
population pressures and growing interest in sustainable farming systems andenvironment (Nair,
1993). Adapting to multi-dimensional farming approaches such agroforestry is important in achieving
sustainable livelihoods (Mery et al., 2005).
Agroforestry consist of three major systems which within there are practices associated with each
system. Nair (1993) catagorises these systems as agrisilvicultural, silvopastoral and agrosilvopastoral
systems. The criterionused to classify these systemsdependson the system’s structure, function,
socioeconomic nature and environment. The systems structure speaks to how the different
components of the systems are arranged, i.e. spatial and temporal arrangements. Function refers to
the major role of the system e.g. windbreaks,shelterbelts, soil conservation. Socioeconomic relates
to the level of inputs required by the system (does the system require low or high inputs) and its
economic purpose (is the system used for subsistence, commercial or intermediate production).
Finally, the environment refers to the system’s suitability to the particular environment or ecological
ecosystem e.g. how suitable is the system to the arid, semi-arid, tropical highlands, lowland humid
tropics, etc. (Nair 1993). In theory, all agroforestry systems share the following attributes:
Productivity:Agroforestry systems should aim to maintain or increaseproduction as well as
productivity (of the land) through increased output of tree products,improved yields of
associated crops, reduction of cropping system inputs and increased labour efficiency.
Sustainability: By conserving the production potential of the resource base, mainly through
the beneficial effects of woody perennials on soils, agroforestry can achieve and indefinitely
maintain conservation and fertility goals.
Adoptability: The word "adopt" here means "accept," and it may be distinguished from
another commonly-used word adapt, which implies "modify" or "change." However, in this
context it means that improved or new agroforestry technologies that are introduced into
new areas should conform to local farming practices for ease of acceptability.
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Economic and environmental benefits of agroforestry
Agroforestry offers a number of economic and environmental benefits.
Agroforestry can add economic value in terms of fodder, soil fertility and timber or fuelwood.
Implementation of silvopastoralism by dairy farmers increases their economic benefits. In central
Kenya, it was observed that farmers planted fodder shrubs, especially Calliandracalothyrsus and
Leucaena trichandra, to use as feed for their stall-fed dairy cows (Franzel, Wambugu and Tuwei, 2003).
Their farm-grown fodder remarkably improved milk production and as it was substituted for relatively
expensive purchased dairy mealitincreased the farmers’income. Fodder shrubs also conserve soil,
supply fuelwood and provide bee forage for honey production (SOFO, 2005). In the Philippines, a
combination of improved fodder grasses and trees (Gliricidia sepium) also brought improvementsin
farmers’income from livestock production, increased crop production and reduced farm labour,
especially for herding and tethering (Bosma et al., 2003).
The use of improved tree fallows has proven to be a viable means to increase crop yields while
nourishing the soil through nitrogen fixation and nutrient cycling. Farmers in Malawi and Zambia
enjoyed improved maize yields following planting improved fallow tree species (Franzel, Phiri and
Kwesiga, 2002). Although maize planted on improvedfallows would not outperform the fertilised
maize, long term soil fertility and improvement is achieved which benefits farmers who cannot afford
fertiliser. Biomass transfer (the manual transfer of green manure)increases vegetable yields,
extending the harvesting season and improving the quality of produce (SOFO, 2005). For example, in
western Kenya, farmers incorporated Tithonia diversifolialeaves plus a bit of phosphorus on their
vegetable plots and observed improved returns.
Timber and fuelwood
Production of timber and fuel wood in an agroforestry setting is becoming a common practice around
the world. Timber species such as Paulowniaspp are normally planted together with cereal crops in
many areas of North China Plain. These tree species arevery deep rooted and impose minimum
competition on crops. They produce high quality timber and excellent fuelwood (Sen, 1991; Wu and
Literature indicates that agroforestry can provide a greater range of environmental benefits than
conventional types of annual crop cultivation. These include improved water use and quality, reduced
erosion/improved soil, increased biological and ecological diversity and improved climate resilience.
Murniati, Garrity and Gintings (2001) found that households engaging in diversified farming systems
which included mixed perennial gardens depended much less on gathering forest products than did
farms cultivating only wetland rice. Hence, the pressure on tree fellingand unsustainable hunting
practices in the nearby forests and parks were reduced. The findings suggest that promoting
diversified farms with agroforestry in buffer zones can enhance forest integrity.
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Water use, soil water and water quality
Monoculture agricultural systems do not fully utilise rainfall due tolosses from evaporation, runoff
and deep drainage (Siriri etal. 2013). Integrationof trees and crops improvesthe productivity of
transpired water by increasing biomass production per unit of water used (Ong et al. 2007).
Intercropping results in microclimate modification increasing thesoil water, gas exchange and water
use efficiency of the understorey crop (Kinyamario et al. 1996). Agroforestryimproves the water use
of a production system by allowing for utilisation of offseason rainfall, where the perennial plants
make use of the additional soil water. Pruning residues and plant litter decompose into organic matter,
which improves the infiltration capacity of the soil andresulting in better water storage (Siriri et al.
2013). Agroforestry also contributes to reduction of nonpoint source pollution through planting of
riparian buffers along water bodies(U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agroforestry Centre,
Erosion / soil improvement
Adoption of land use practices such as agroforestry improves the physical and chemical properties of
the soil, enhances soil infiltration capacity and influences soil water distribution processes (Neris et al.
2012). Previous research confirms that agroforestry enhances soil fertility, improves soil structure and
soil organic matter, reducing the risk of erosion (Lehmann et al. 1998; Lott et al. 2009 & Duguma &
Hanger 2011). Terracing of slope areas with woody perennial reduces soil erosion.
Biological diversity and ecology
Agroforestry systems provide a favourable environment for biological diversity.Biodiversity groups
can range from insectivorous birds and bats, tree seed-dispersing birds, pollinators enhancing crop
yield and amphibians providing biocontrol services. Traditional coffee-based agroforestry systems in
the Americas have provento be critical for protection of migration corridors for birds. A system
comprised of these biodiversity groups can be achieved through the integration of various
agroforestry practices leading to the creation of a complex mosaic of patches in an ecosystem (Leakey
and Simons 1998). Each of these patches is composed of many niches occupied by different organisms,
resulting in an ecologically stable and biological diverse system.
Climate resilience: mitigation and adaptation
Three quarters of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas, and their livelihoods depend on crop
farming which is largely subsistence and dryland production; these people are first to be impacted by
climate change. Climate change events such as the shifting of seasons, prolonged drought and
increased temperatures occurring in the Southern Africa highlight the need for these farmers to adapt
to climate change. Climate change can be addressed through two broad elements: mitigation and
adaptation. Agroforestry has been found to contribute significantly to climate change mitigation (Nair
and Nair 2014).
Climate change mitigation can be achieved through the reduction of greenhouse emission and carbon
sequestration. In the context of agroforestry, reduction of greenhouse gas emission is achieved
through tree farming by high storage of carbon, in the soil especially when mulching and conservation
agriculture practices are applied (Blignaut et al 2008). Another key element of mitigation is carbon
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sequestration. Carbon sequestration is realised in agricultural systems that minimise soil disturbance
and actively build soil organic carbon (SOC). The modernisation of agriculture has resultedin the
depletion of carbon as a result of deforestation, intensive cropping, soil erosion and unsustainable
agricultural practices. Where trees or shrubs are included on farms as part of an agroforestry system,
the amount of carbon sequestered is increased compared with monoculture agricultural systems,
while also providing biomass-based fuel alternatives.
The IPCC (2007) defines adaptation as the “adjustments in human and natural systems in response to
actual or expected climatic stimuli or effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial
opportunities”. Agroforestry is increasingly recognised as a farmingsystem that enhances the
resilience of smallholder production systems in the face of climate change. Due to the diverse nature
of agroforestry, it increases farm profitability of output per unit area through protection against
adverse climatic conditions. Agroforestry can also improve the financial diversity and flexibility of a
farming enterprise. For example, fruit trees on farm or home gardens produce fruits that contribute
to the family’s diets in terms of vitamins and minerals, while non-timber products such as mushrooms
or groundnuts provide financial income until the timber matures.
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This chapter aims to draw out specific practices under CSA and the associated methodologies and
practices. These ’lists’ are to form the basis for defining practices within the decision support system
to find best bet options for practices within a ‘basket of options’.
Presently many of these practices could be seen to be complimentary or even overlapping and it is
specifically those where interesting synergies could be created that are to be given specific attention.
Table 7, summarised from the researchteam’s present understanding, illustratessome of the
practices which address the three pillars of CSA; improvement of crop productivity, mitigation of
climate change impacts and climate change adaptation.
These practices include elements of natural resource management, soil and water conservation (SWC)
and conservation agriculture (CA.). Agroforestry and agroecology are briefly dealt with in separate
sections below, for the sake of clarity.
It is important to note that these practices cannot be introduced only as technologies but that they fit
into larger processes of awareness raising, learning and experimentation. These will be touched on in
Chapter 5 below and will be discussed in more detail in Deliverable 2 of this research process.
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Table 7 Practices which contribute to Climate Smart Agriculture
Description of the practices
Irrigation scheduling and water
availability in the root zone
Irrigation scheduling refers to application of
irrigation water based on crop water
Deficit irrigation (DI) also known
as supplemental irrigation (SI)
Soil management practices which
minimise soil water losses
(runoff, evaporation, deep
percolation) and improve soil
water holding capacity (e.g.
mulching, improved soil fertility)
Crop management practices that
enhance growth and yield
(greater water use efficiency)
Application of irrigation in rainfed systems
during the critical stage of crop development
Ex-situ (capturing runoff water) and in-situ
(storing water in the soil profile) water
Soil fertility is improved by increasing the organic
matter content of the soil which improves the
water holding capacity of the soil. Mulching
refers to covering of the soil surface by crop
residues to minimise soil evaporation.
Developing drought resistant crop varieties
(improving water productivity)
contribute to CSA
Integrated pest management
Mixed cropping/ intercropping
Breeding of high yielding crop
varieties (early maturing, drought
Integrated nutrition management
Choice of crops that have high
yielding potential under different
(drought tolerant crop varieties)
Micro climate management
Crop rotation assists in improving soil fertility
In dry land maize is normally planted with
legumes (e.g. dry beans or cowpeas) in between
High yielding early maturing crops assists in
resource use efficiency (water and nutrients)
This includes concepts in organic farming and
agroecology including composting, green
manures, cover crops, vermiculture etc.
The choice of the crops should also be based on
the environmental condition they are grown in
Practices here include tunnels and shade house
structures where evaporation and temperature
extremes can be controlled to various degrees.
This relates to
soil fertility and
Practices aimed at ensuring
comprehensive soil cover by
vegetation (Mulching, close
Maintaining and increasing soil
carbon levels (CA systems)
Minimising the impact of rainfall-
runoff (more infiltration)
Minimising useof inorganic
Mulching refers to use of plant residues (usually
from the crop planted in the previous season) to
cover the soil surface to minimise soil
evaporation, reduce runoff, improve soil water
infiltration and contribute to soil organic matter.
Conservation agriculture (CA) is an agricultural
practice which is based on the three main pillars,
these are, minimum soil disturbance (no till),
crop rotation and soil cover
Grazing land management
Animal health innovations (e.g.
Cultivated pastures, either under rainfed
conditions or irrigation (e.g. growing of Lucerne
for direct grazing and or hay production)
Vaccinations are important to reduce the risk of
animal diseases which could lead to animal
by trees (e.g.
food, fibre, fuel)
Agroforestry systems on farm
Planting of trees with cash crops increase the
productivity of the land while increasing
diversity on the farm. (some of the agroforestry
species are legumes (e.g. pigeon pea) which also
contributes toward nitrogen fixation
This aims to
Diversification of energy sources
Use of sustainable renewable energy to reduce
reliance fossil energy, including wind, water and
solar energy. Biofuels could be considered.
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We continued from there to focus in on potential practices for field cropping, presented in the table/flow diagram below:
Table 8 Summary of potential CSA practices in smallholder cropping systems
Use of site specific fertilizer recommendation and more efficient use
of fertilizer (using the right, source, at right time, at right place and
applying the right rate) planting legumes, manure, green manure,
liming to manage soil acidity (surface liming and incorporation).
Minimum tillage/ no till, crop diversification,
inclusion of cover crops, agroforestry options
(multipurpose, fast growing trees and fodder
species) push-pull technology
It has been shown that yields with fertilizer
exceed those without by a factor of 2 to 3
(Rasmussen et al., 1998).
EXAMPLES / CASE STUDIES
SOIL AND WATER
Improved irrigation practices(drip irrigation,
furrow irrigation, moist tube irrigation), improved
water retention(soil cover (mulching with crop
residues), improved organic matter (manure and
crop residues), minimum tillage (CA))
Rain water harvesting (situ and in-situ), small
dams, check dam, small earth dams, infiltration
pits and ridges.
Contour planting, gabions, grass water
ways, stone bunds, diversion ditches, swales,
furrows, zai pits, terraces, stone packs, strip
cropping, pitting, half moon basins
pests and weeds
Breeding improved varieties (early maturing,
drought tolerant, improved nutrients), seed
saving, OPV and heirloom varieties
Crop rotation, intercropping, integrated pest
management (home made brews),planting in
tunnels, integrated weed management (close
spacing to suppress the weeds)
Combinations of stone bunds and zaÏ pits could double the yield of millet
and sorghum compared to unimproved land (Landolt, (2011) and
Bayala et al., (2012). This indicates that these SWC practices contribute
to CSA in that they improve productivity.
Intercropping coffee with banana can increase the plot revenue by 50%
in both fertilized and unfertilized conditions (Van Asten et al., (2011).
This is because coffee is a shade tolerant tree. Therefore crop
management practices contributes toward improved yield and income.
Harvested water is often used of supplementary irrigation (SI). Study by
Owies and Hachum (2012) found that SI has a potential to double the
yields in wheat production (under rainfed conditions).
Under the drought tolerant maize for Africa (DTMA) project, Revere et
al. (2010) reported newly developed varieties as having potential to
improve the maize yield by 10 to 14 %.
Blanco-Canqui and R.Lal (2007) found that no till based cropping
systems increases soil organic carbon in the top layers of the soil
profile compared to plough tillage basedcropping systems. This
contributes to increase SOC andthus improve soil health.
Contribution to CSA (reduces GHG) emissions)
Improved irrigation systems (drip irrigation) contribute towards
water use efficiency thus water productivity. Drip irrigation
significantly roots or shoot ratio compared to other irrigation
systems (e.g. Sprinkler irrigation) (Kang et al., 2001)
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A further focus on vegetable production led to the compilation of the diagram below. A number of the practices may overlap with the cropping systems
practices. They are mentioned again as the activities are scale dependent and specific methods and processes may vary.
Table 9 Summary of potential SCA practices for smallholder vegetable production systems
Improvement of soil
availability of water
Inorganic fertilizer, integrated nutrient management, Agro-forestry
options, use of grain legumes, use of animal manure (e.g. chicken, cattle,
goat) Improved manure options (Composting, liquid manure, teas, worm
farming) Deep fertility beds(deep and shallow trenches, double digging,
banana circle, eco circles)
Returning organic matterto the soil (use of green manure
plants, use of grass in crop rotation, use of crops residues)
Diversification (cover crops, mixed cropping)
Mafongoya et al. (2006) foundthat,inorganic
fertilizers, grainlegumes, animal manures,
integrated nutrientmanagement and agro-
forestryoptionsareappropriate options for
improving soil fertility in small-scale farming
EXAMPLES/ CASE STUDIES
Improvement of soil
SOIL AND WATER
Improved irrigation or water saving practices(drip irrigation,
bottle irrigation), Improving water retention(soil cover
((mulching with crop residues), improved organic matter
(manure and crop residues), minimum tillage (CA)) Use of grey
water (tower gardens, homemade water filters)
Rain water harvesting (ex-situ and in-situ), small dams, check
dam, small earth dams, infiltration pits and ridges, tanks
Cover crops, stone bunds, diversion ditches,
swales, furrows, zai pits, terraces, stone packs,
strip cropping, pitting, half moon
pests and weeds
Breeding improved varieties (early maturing,
drought tolerant, improved nutrients)
Crop rotation, intercropping, integrated pest
management (used of pesticides, plating in tunnels)
integrated weed management (close spacing to
suppress the weeds) use of compost teas
Cover crops have become important inconservation tillage practices because
they control soil erosion and help increase soil tilth (Phatak, 1992)
Martin and Brathwaite (2012) found that compost tea, a product of compost,
has also been shown to suppress soil-borne diseases including damping-off and
root rots (Pythium ultimum, Rhizoctonia solani, Phytophthora spp.) and wilts
(Fusarium oxysporum and Verticillium dahliae).
In Singapore, use of water harvested from roof tops could
results in a700% increase in domestic vegetable production,
satisfying domestic demand by 35.5% (
Astee and Kishnani,
Many new, improved, nutrient-dense indigenous and standard vegetable
varieties are being released for which
small-holder farmers are finding
growing markets in both rural and urban settings (Afari-Sefa et al., 2012)
At the same organic carbon content in the soil, the soil
biological activity and physical condition are remarkably
improved when under grass rather than vegetables (Haynes
and Tregurtha, 1999).
Use of greywater can contribute to 15% water saving and 27%
cost saving on water bills. (Faruqui and Al-Jayyousi 2002)
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The table below provides a classification system for agroforestry techniques and process and outlines practices. Here combinations for gardening, cropping
and grazing systems are provided.
Table 10 Agroforestry systems and practices (Source: Nair 1991)
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Major agroforestry systems
Agroforestry practices associated with each system
(crops - including
shrub/vine/tree crops - and
Woody species planted and left to grow during the 'fallow phase'
Woody leguminous crops
In shifting cultivation areas
Combined stand of woody and agricultural species during early stages
of establishment of plantations
Forestry plantation species and
common agricultural crops
For all agro ecological zones with
Alley cropping (hedgerow intercropping)
Woody species in hedges; agricultural species in alleys in between
hedges; microzonal or strip arrangement
Fast growing woody species,
Multilayer tree gardens
Multispecies, multilayer dense plant associations with no organized
Different woody species of
varying form and growth
Areas of fertile soils
Multipurpose trees on crop lands
Trees scattered haphazardly or according to some systematic patterns
on bunds, terraces or plot/field boundaries
Multipurpose and certain fruit
trees; herbaceous agricultural
All ecological regions
Plantation crop Combinations
Integrated multi-storey (mixed, dense) mixtures of plantation crops
Mixtures of plantation crops in alternate or other regular arrangement
Shade trees for plantation crops; shade trees scattered
Intercropping with agricultural crops
Woody plantations like coffee,
cocoa, coconut and certain fruit
trees. Fuelwood/fodder species.
Shade tolerant species
Humid lowlands or tropical
humid/sub humid highlands
Intimate, multi-storey combination of various trees and crops around
Fruit trees, woody species, vines
etc. shade tolerant agricultural
All ecological regions
Trees in soil conservation and reclamation
Trees on bunds, terraces, raisers, etc. with or without grass strips; trees
for soil reclamation
Multipurpose and fruit trees
and herbaceous agricultural
In sloping areas (highlands,
reclamation of degraded, acid,alkali
Shelterbelts and windbreaks, live hedges
Trees around farmland/plots
Woody species that are tall
growing and spreading
Wind prone areas
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Inter planting firewood species on or around agricultural lands
All ecological regions
(trees + pasture and/or
Trees on rangeland or pastures
Trees scattered irregularly or arranged according to some systematic
Multipurpose trees and species
of fodder value
Extensive grazing areas
Production of protein-rich tree fodder on farm/rangelands for cut-and-
carry fodder production
Legume fodder trees
Plantation crops with pasture and animals
Woody plantation crops
Example: cattle under coconuts
in south- east Asia and the south
In areas withless pressure on
plantation crop lands
(trees + crops +
Homegardens involving animals
Intimate, multi-storey combination of various trees and crops, and
animals, around homesteads
Predominated by fruit trees
All ecological regions
Multipurpose woody hedgerows
Woody hedges for browse, mulch, green manure, soil conservation, etc.
Fast growing and coppicing
fodder shrubs and trees
Humid to sub humidareaswith
Apiculture with tree
Trees suitable for honey
Depends on the feasibility of
Trees lining fish ponds, tree leaves being used as 'forage' for fish
Trees and shrubs preferred by
For various purposes (wood, fodder, soil protection, soil reclamation,
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The key Agroecological approaches can be found to fit into the broader CSA, CA and agroforestry
systems and practices already mentioned above. For the sake of creating a complete picture,these
are listed again briefly below (Agroecology 2015).
Crop rotations: Cereals and legumes are planted in sequence/rotation.Nutrients are
conserved and provided from one season to next and pest and disease life cycles are
Polycultures: Two or more crop species are planted together to improved nutrient use
efficiency, optimal water management and pest regulation
Agroforestry systems:trees are grown together with annual crops to maintain and improve
fertility, improve nutrient uptake, support life above and below the ground and create mulch.
Cover crops and mulching: Grass-legume mixtures are planting into existing cropping systems,
or as relay or off season crops in a seasonal cropping system to reduce erosion, improve
nutrient balances, improve weed management and manage pest life cycles.
Green manures:These are fast growing cover crops. In this system, the plants arecut and
incorporated into the soil at particular growth phases (prior to flowering) to maximise nutrient
provision to following crops and improve soil structure.
Crop-livestock mixtures:Integration of livestock fodder into the cropping system, creates
many synergies. As an example, fodder shrubs planted at high density, intercropped with
livestock pasture and timber producing trees, that are directly grazed by livestock, creates a
system where external inputs are not required.
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5.1Tools to support Natural Resource Management in a rural / communal context
Climate smart agriculture can also be supported by using the livelihoods approach which combines
the principles of Participatory Rural Appraisal and the sustainable livelihoods approach. This approach
differentiates five livelihood capitals, namely: human capital, social capital, physical capital, natural
capital and financial capital (Lax and Krug, 2013), as illustrated in Figure 16 below.
Figure 16 Five capitals of sustainable livelihood assessment (Lax and Krug, 2013)
The landscape approach enables the achievement of Climate Smart Agriculture objectives by ensuring
that the management of production systems and natural resources is represented by an area big
enough toproduce important ecosystem services and yet smallenough to be carried out by people
using land and producing those services (FAO, 2013). The landscape approach was recently redefined
to include societal concerns related to conservation and development of trade-offs. This approach is
designed to include an integration of poverty alleviation, agriculturalproduction and food security.
The unique attributes of this approach are adaptive management, stakeholder engagement and the
simultaneous achievement of multiple objectives (Sunderland, 2012). Climate Smart Agriculture
promotes the adoption of practices that ensures ecosystems resilience and therefore introduction of
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CSA to communities through participatory and people-centred approaches is important to achieve
5.2Community of practice
Communities of Practice (CoP) are groups of people who share a concern or passion for something
they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly (Wenger, 1998).People in communities
of practice share similar views or interests but bring individual perspectives to problem solving and
thus createa social learning system that goesbeyond the sum of its parts. Communities of practice
develop their practice through problem solving, information sharing, experience, coordination and
synergy and practice (Jakovljevic et al, 2013). The benefits of forming communities of practice are that
they allow individuals to test their ideas through collaboration, obtain feedback and interact in ways
they would not if they were learning alone. Communities of practice also serve as a platform to create
relationships that not only benefit them but also those in the immediate community, which makes
them more effective. The real challenge of communities of practice is to develop the community and
the practice simultaneously. Community development refers to the development of skills of the
people involved in coordination, facilitation and knowledge management of the community.
Development of the practice entails that resources, information and knowledge are captured and
enhanced over time. A community of practice has flexible boundaries, meaning that membership
involves whoever is interested in the practice, members participate in differentways and to varying
degrees (Wenger, 1998).
The key components of a community of practice are that it must have a shared purpose, shared needs
and shared values; the necessary enablers such as technology, time, budget, support and incentives;
a form of leadership; defined processes such as communication strategies; and a membership which
represents a variety of views, competencies and behaviours (Jakovljevic et al, 2013).
A community of practice typically goes through several stages of development. After members find
each other and identify their common cause, they negotiate with each other and define their shared
enterprise. They then begin to develop a practice by engaging in joint activities and adapting to
changing circumstances. At a later stage, members may withdraw from joint activities but still
maintain contact, with the community still functioning as a source of knowledge. Eventually, the
community may reach a stage where it no longer plays a role in members’ lives but they still remember
it as an important part of their identity (Hovland, 2005).
Linking knowledge, policy and practice
Communities of practice can play a significant role in linking practitioners, knowledge producers and
policy processes to analyse, address and explore solutions to problems. By creating an environment
for reflection, interpretation and feedback they can encourage collaboration between researchers and
practitioners, allowing researchers to better gauge the relevance of their work. They provide a
platform from which researchers can work together to influence policy and policy makers can engage
with knowledge creation, linking the domains of research and policy through complex social networks.
The structure of a community of practice also can provide a space where development practitioners,
policy makers and researchers can engage with communities within a context of learning where they
Mahlathini Development Foundation May 201775
engage with the members’ needs and capacities, with the community reserving the right to accept or
reject new ideas and practices rather than be controlled by professionals. (Hearn and White, 2009).
5.3Community learning networks
Community learning networks are connections formedand maintainedby local people with the aim
to share information and support each others’ learning. These networks are important in bringing
together local people, developmentpractitioners, researchers and other role players togetherto
access and share resources and information that can encourage communities to take up improved
practices (Steepes and Jones, 2002). These learning networks or learning groups typically form part of
a larger CoP that involves a number of different stakeholders.Learning networks are also based on
shared values and practices and are entirely voluntary and open-ended in that participants belong to
these networks as long as theyfind them useful as individuals. These groups provide a safe base for
participants to think and work together, reach out to others , mobilise support and engage in joint
planning, implementation and review activities. The groups create an enabling environment ofr
participants. (Stimie et al. 2010)
5.4Community savings groups
Community savings groups have been around for a long time and are prevalent in villages in Africa,
Asia and Latin America where banking services do not cater well for the rural poor. Savings groups are
also called rotating savings and credit association (ROSCAs), savings and credit groups (SCGs), village
savings loans or merry-go-rounds –the various models typically have similar objectives. Community
managed savings and credit groups are a convenient way to save money, gain access to small loans,
obtain emergency insurance and ultimately gain a means of livelihood in order to build economic
empowerment. Savings groups are self-managed and respond directly to the unmet financial need of
the rural poor (Seifert, 2016). In South Africa, savings groups have gained popularity over the years,
due to their convenience, financial security and ease of access. Financial exclusion from the
mainstream economy has led to the development of community-based solutions for the black
population through savings groups.Women typically make up the bulk of the members These groups
can form a sable and useful organisational unit on which to build learning groups and communities of
practice and provide the added advantage of members’ ability to contribute financially to their chosen
activities (Mathebula, Mahlathini Development Foundation 2014 pers comm).
5.5Participatory Innovation Development (PID)
Local innovation is the process by which people find new and improved ways of doing things and take
initiative to try out these new practices using their own resources. They may be doing this as a way of
exploring new possibilities and discovering alternatives to coping with changes in their natural
resource base, asset availability or other socio-economic contexts which may be a result of changes in
policy, natural disasters or other external factors. Through these processes of exploring,
experimentingand adopting new practices, people come up with local innovations that were
developed and are understood by them. Local innovation can take place at an individual level, through
groups or may include the community at large (PROLINNOVA, 2009). The emphasis is on people being
actively involved in discovering and exploring new ways of doing things. Participatory Innovation
Mahlathini Development Foundation May 201776
Development,sometimes referred to as farmer-led joint research, is a process whereby local people
work together with researchers and development practitioners to investigate possible ways to
improve their livelihoods. Research in this context entails going beyond on field trials but also looking
at the value chain, community relationships and ways to manage communal resources. In the context
of climate change, PID can help farmers explore ways of adapting and improving the resilience of their
farming systems through improved climate smart practices such as those encompassed in
conservation agriculture (Van Veldhuizen et al, 2013).
5.6Farmer Field Schools
Farmer Field Schools (FFS) is a participatory approach that aims to capacitate farmers to analyse their
own production systems, identify problems, consider various options and adopt the technology or
practice best suited to their farming system. The limitation of FFS however is that it reaches a relatively
small group of farmers at a time while incurring high costs financially and in terms of management
time (FAO, 2010).
5.7Social, technical and institutional interventions to support CSA
The successful implementation and adoption of climate smart agricultural practices in rural landscapes
can be achieved when coordinated with local rural development activities. Creation of an enabling
environment in terms of policy and legislation and the use of effectivenatural resource assessment
tools is needed to pave a way for CSA as well as investing in participatory approaches that take into
consideration all the stakeholders involved within the landscape. Proper monitoring and evaluation
strategies should be in place to ensure sustainability and adoption.
Mahlathini Development Foundation May 201777
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