Smallholder DSS No 2 - Impact of CRA Practices on Rural Livelihoods

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A smallholder farmer level decision support system
for climate resilient farming practices improves
community level resilience to climate change. No2:
Impact of climate resilient practices on rural
livelihoods
Submitted by Erna Kruger (Director MahlathiniDevelopment Foundation - MDF)
Ph: 0828732289, Email: info@mahlathini.orgWeb: www.mahlathini.org
Partners: Erna Kruger, Mazwi Dlamini, Samukelisiwe Mkhize, Temakholo Mathebula, Phumzile
Ngcobo, Betty Maimela, Sylvester Selala and Lulama Magenuka (MDF)
Palesa Motaung, Nonkanyiso Zondi, Sandile Madlala, Khetiwe Mthethwa, Andries Maponya,
Nozipho Zwane, Lungelo Buthelezi, and Zoli Gwala (students and interns)
Mr Lawrence Sisitka (Research Associate- Environmental Learning Research Centre- Rhodes
University)
Mr Nqe Dlamini (StratAct)
Mr Chris Stimie (Rural Integrated Engineering)
Mr Jon Mc Cosh, Ms Brigid Letty (Institute of Natural Resources)
Mr Hendrik Smith (CA coordinator for GrainSA)
Ms Sharon Pollard (AWARD)
Ms Lindelwa Ndaba (Lima RDF)
Ms Catherine van den Hoof (formerly of WITS Climate Facility, now the United Nations World
Food Programme)
Introduction
A current Water Research Commission adaptive research process entitled “Collaborative knowledge creation
and mediation strategies for the dissemination of Water and Soil Conservation practices and Climate Smart
Agriculture in smallholder farming systemsis exploring best practice options for climate resilient agriculture
for smallholders and evaluating the impact of implementation of a range of these practices on the resilience of
agriculture based livelihoods. Alongside this, a decision support methodology and system has been designed to
assist smallholders and the facilitators who support them to make informed and appropriate decisions about
choices of a ‘basket of options’ for implementation at a local level.
The research process is broadly divided into three elements for purposes of clarity, although all three elements
are tackled concurrently:
1. Community climate change adaptation process design
2. Climate resilient agricultural practices and
3. A decision support system.
In this article we focus on the CRA practices and the impact of implementation of these practices on rural
livelihoods.
Climate resilient agriculture (CRA) practices for smallholders
The approach is to work directly with smallholders in local contexts to improve practices and synergise across
sectors. The emphasis is thus at farm/household level. Here CRA aims to improve aspects of crop production,
livestock and pasture management, natural resource management, as well as soil and water management as
depicted in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1: Household level implementation of CSA integrates across sectors (adapted from Arslan, 2014)
A database of 66 different practices falling into the categories mentioned inthe figure above has been
compiled, based on local suggestions and best bet options from experience and literature.
A selection of the practices is shown in the table below. Farmers decide on practices to try out and implement
depending on their own situations and preferences as well as suggestions made by the facilitation team.
Table 1: a summary of a selection of CRA practices considered and implemented by smallholder farmers
Gardening
Field cropping (Conservation
Agriculture)
Livestock management
Intensive gardening techniques:
including trench beds, mulching, liquid
manure, mixed cropping, planting of
nutritional herbs and multifunctional
plants, fruit production, seed saving
Diversification of cropping:
including legumes and cover
crops (sunflower, millet, sunn
hemp, black oats, fodder rye
and fodder radish)
Fodder production and
management for livestock
Soil and water conservation techniques:
including swales, furrows and ridges,
stone bunds, check dams
Intercropping and crop
rotation; strip cropping options
and spacing
Local feed production
options
Tunnels; Shade cloth structures for
microclimate control
No till planters
Chicken tractors
Rainwater harvesting; in field methods
and storage options, small dams
Mulching, manure and organic
options
Winter supplementation
SYNERGIES
Soil
and water
conservation
For each practice, a 1-page summary has been put together, that can be presented to smallholders in the
climate change adaptation workshops, for consideration by the smallholder farmers as a new idea or
innovation to experiment with. Below are three illustrative examples
This database provides a resource to farmers and facilitators to choose appropriate climate resilient
agricultural practices for their area and their particular situation. It is one of the input parameters for the
decision support process.
In addition,qualitative and quantitative indicators have been explored to physically assess the impact of these
practices. These have included for example run-off, infiltration, water holding capacity in the soil profile, and
water productivity as well as a number of soil- based parameters such as organic matter content, soil fertility
and microbial activity.
As an example, a farmer level experimentation process consisting of production in trench beds, inside and
outside of shade cloth tunnels was conducted. The control for this experiment was the farmer’s ‘normal’
gardening practice in this case raised beds.
Above left to right: Spinach grown in a trench bed inside a tunnel, in a trench bed outsidea tunnel and in a
control bed (raised bed), by Phumelele Hlongwane
Farmers kept careful records of the amount of water applied (irrigation) and their harvests (yields), alongside
the research team who worked with local weather stations and soil moisture measurements to assess the
water productivity of these practices.
The table below outlines the resultant water productivity calculation for this experiment. Both conventional
WP calculations and a simpler format suggested by farmers that only uses their water applied were used.
Table 2: Water productivity for production of spinach inside and outside shade cloth tunnels for 2
smallholder farmers in KNV, Bergville
Bgvl June-Sept 2018
Simple scientific method (ET)
Farmers' method (Water applied)
Name of famer
water use
(m3)
Total weight
(kg)
WP
(kg/m3)
water use
(m3)
Total weight
(kg)
WP
(kg/m3)
Phumelele Hlongwane trench
bed inside tunnel
1,65
21,06
12,76
1,85
21,06
11,38
Phumelele Hlongwane; trench
bed outside tunnel
0,83
5,32
6,45
1,75
5,32
3,04
Ntombakhe Zikode trench bed
inside tunnel
1,65
17,71
10,73
2,37
17,71
7,47
Ntombakhe Zikode; trench bed
outside tunnel
0,50
3,35
6,76
0,53
3,35
6,33
The control plots are not included here, as the two farmers realised quite early in the season that their normal
production methods required too much water and opted to focus only on the trench beds. Water productivity
is 60-100% higher for trench beds inside the tunnels when compared to trench beds outside the tunnel using
the more scientific approach that also takes into account evapotranspiration and leaching. This is a highly
significant result, indicating the potential of micro-climate control in adaptation.
Water productivity calculate only from yields compared to water applied, shows a larger variation in results for
the two participants. They both applied more water to their trench beds outside their tunnels, than inside;
working on the assumption that the reduced growth for the crops outside the tunnel was due to water stress.
This experimentation process assisted in their learning that plant stress also includes other factors such as
temperature, wind and insect damage.
Participatory Impact Assessments
After a cycle of experimentation with the basket of CRA practices (one season/ 6 months), the process is
reviewed and a participatory impact assessment process is conducted with the learning group members. It is
important for community members themselves to develop the impact indicators/criteria
The diagram below provides a summary of all the practices that were tried out for the KZN learning groups for
the 2018-2019 season
1: Tower garden; using greywater for irrigation, planted to kale, spinach and tomatoes
2: Eco-circle with a 2litre bottle (with holes) used for in situ irrigation and planted to a mixture of herbs and
vegetables
3: Bucket drip kits inside a shade cloth tunnel
4: raised bed with mixed cropping planted as a “normal practice control” when comparing with trench beds
5: A Shade cloth tunnel with 3 5x1m trench - beds
6: Inspection of a locally protected spring
7: A shallow trench bed planted to a mixture of green
peppers, chillies and marigolds
8: A deep trench bed planted to a mixture of kale, rape,
mustard spinach and Chinese cabbage
9: A maize and cowpea intercropped conservation
agriculture (CA) plot
10: A CA plot planted to summer cover crops; sunflower,
millet and sunnhemp
11: A CA plot planted to Dolichos beans
12: Making bales of hay with a small manual baler
Community members work in small groups to analyse for
themselves the impact of the climate resilient agricultural
practices they have been implementing.
Right: Participants from 4 learning groups work together in
assessing the impact of their implementation(KZN, March
2019)
Below is the result of a matrix ranking exercise conducted during this session. The research team were
incredibly impressed with the depth of analysis participants undertook and with the impact indicators
participants developed. It also indicates that smallholder farmers use integrated and systemic indicators to
make their decisions and not just production and income data, commonly used in agriculture.
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
1
Table 3: Particiatory impact assessment of CRA practices by KZNparticipants, March 2019..
IMPACT
INDICATORS
PRACTICES
Soil;
health
and
fertility
Money;
income
and
savings
Productivity;
acceptance
of practice,
saving in
farming
equipment,
labour
Knowledge;
increased
knowledge
and ability
to use
Food;
how
much
produced
and how
healthy
Water;
use
and
access
Social agency;
Support,
empowerment
Total
Conservation
Agriculture
22
21
26
28
18
23
18
156
Savings
6
15
14
15
12
11
15
88
Livestock
19
11
18
7
5
12
11
83
Gardening
14
15
12
13
15
17
21
107
Crop rotation
16
12
13
12
12
15
10
90
Intercropping
12
13
15
12
11
11
9
83
Small
businesses
11
17
15
10
20
11
9
93
The resilience snapshot put together from individual interviews for these same participants, gives a very strong
indication of the benefit of CRA to the livelihoods of the rural poor. Climate change adaptation for these
participants has resulted in increased availability of food, incomes and social agency and has provided hope for
a more positive future for these participants.
Table 4: Resilience snapshot for KZN participants, March 2019.
Resilience indicators
Rating for increase
Comment
Increase in size of farming
activities
Gardening 18%
Field cropping 63%
Livestock 31%
Cropping areas measured, no of livestock
assessed
Increased farming activities
No
Most participants involved in gardening, field
cropping and livestock management
Increased season
Yes
For field cropping and gardening- autumn
and winter options
Increased crop diversity
Crops: 12 new crops
Practices: 8 new practices
Management options include; drip irrigation,
tunnels, no-till planters, JoJo tanks, RWH
drums,
Increased productivity
Gardening 72%
Field cropping 79%
Livestock 25%
Based on increase in yields
Positive impact of CRA and associated practices in order of
importance: Conservation Agriculture, gardening (tunnels,
agroecology), small businesses (farmer centres, poultry),
savings, livestock (integration fodder, health)
Increased water use
efficiency
25%
Access, RWH, waterholding capacity and
irrigation efficiency rated
Increased income
13%
Based on average monthly incomes
Increased household food
provisioning
Maize- 20kg/week
Vegetables 7kg/week
Food produced and consumed in the
household
Increased savings
R150/month
Average of savings now undertaken
Increased social agency
(collaborative actions)
2
Villages savings and loan associations and
learning groups
Increased informed decision
making
5
Own experience, local facilitators, other
farmers, facilitators, extension officers
Positive mindsets
2-3
More to much more positive about the
future: Much improved household food
security and food availability
In conclusion
A farmer level innovation approach to implementation of CRA practices in smallholder farming systems
provides a powerful tool for community based climate change adaptation and improvement of rural
livelihoods.