Climate change, household vulnerability and smart agricukture: the case of two South African provinces

Climate change, household vulnerability and smart agricukture: the case of two South African provinces

The impact of climate change disasters poses significant challenges for South Africa especially for vulnerable rural households. In South Africa there is dearth of knowledge of the impacts of climate change at the local level, especially in rural areas. Rural households are generally poor and lack resources to adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change associated disasters. The extent of vulnerability of rural households to climate change related disasters is largely not understood. A thorough and systematic examination of household vulnerability to climate change in rural areas is necessary and urgent. To minimise the impacts of climate change, there are several alternative adaptation strategies. The adaptation strategies require scientific scrutiny to establish which strategies are more cost effective and with the greatest positive impact on people’s livelihoods.

The purpose of this project was to assess the micro level impacts of climate change, evaluate household vulnerability and evaluate alternative rural adaptation strategies. To evaluate the impact of climate change the DSSAT models were used to simulate the impacts of climate change scenarios on maize yields. On household vulnerability, the household vulnerability index (HVI) tools was used to identify vulnerable households, so as to provide the basis for strategic interventions as well as recommending a potential suite of fiscal and economic measures to be used to improve the resilience of communities to climate change. The cost benefits analysis was the main technique used to evaluate alternative adaptation strategies. The study focused on the Eastern Cape and Limpopo provinces: provinces that have been singled out as the most vulnerable to disasters.

The cost benefit results suggest households need to move towards the use of drought resistant crop varieties and conservation farming. Priority should be given to drought resistant varieties, small grains, and zero tillage farming systems both in Limpopo and Eastern Cape. Practicing climate smart agriculture should be prioritised.

The following recommendations are proposed:

  • government should consider developing a household vulnerability index that will isolate households that are vulnerable to climate change and ensure that such households are well targeted. Any fiscal and financial interventions to alleviate the impact from climate change should take into account the differential vulnerabilities of rural communities and aim to support their autonomous adaptation responses. In this regard, it is recommended that the scope of the CASP grant is broadened to include mechanisms that will improve the resilience and adaptation of households that are vulnerable to climate change
  • the department of agriculture should support the development of a sustainable and resilient multi-purpose production system in rural areas, especially mechanisms that improve the asset base of rural households such as providing support towards strengthening livestock production; training for pasture-land management, disease control and crop-livestock husbandry and support strategies increase access to inputs, markets and financial resources, improved agricultural extension services and access to climate and weather forecast information. In addition, there is a need to promote multi-purpose crop production, small grains (Sorghum and millet), and drought and water stress tolerant crop varieties, improved agronomic practices (in-field water harvesting, and application of appropriate fertiliser amounts, proper timing of sowing dates, conservation agriculture, etc.)
  • the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries needs to strengthen the extension service and capacitate extension workers with knowledge on climate change risks and climate smart agriculture. Additionally, the department should support farmers by ensuring that a value chain of drought resistant crops especially value chains for crops considered as female crops
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