Climate adaptation readiness for agriculture: drought lessons from the Western Cape, South Africa
Agriculture is a critical component of national and sub-national economies, yet it is also highly vulnerable to weather extremes and scarce water resources. Climate change is increasing disaster risks in Southern Africa. Despite progress on integrated climate change and disaster risk management frameworks, the 2015/2016 El Niño linked drought severely affected the region. The focus remains on disaster relief rather than on risk reduction and adaptation for longterm resilience. A case study for the Western Cape province of South Africa indicates that improved drought resilience can be observed where sustainable land management practices have been taken up by farmers. Further progress is contingent on strengthened co-operation across all tiers of government and across sectors, adequately resourced relief funds, availability of financial mechanisms for post-drought recovery and the clearing of bureaucratic bottlenecks that hamper adaptive water planning. Local experiences and stakeholder participation are essential for appropriately contextualised adaptation planning.
- national, provincial and local governments should be capacitated to proactively plan for and implement responses to severe droughts under the guidance of comprehensive integrated climate change adaptation and drought risk management policy frameworks and plans. These roadmaps to resilience should develop out of inclusive and contextualised stakeholder-driven processes, link top-down guidance with bottom-up perspectives and incorporate social vulnerability considerations
- national governments should provide sufficient drought relief assistance through both national and provincial contingency funds. These should be rapidly released to the most vulnerable farmers and rural communities. Simultaneously, governments and financial institutions should develop financial mechanisms to encourage proactive drought risk reduction and the transition to climate-resilient agricultural and food systems
- national and provincial departments of agriculture should prioritise joint co-operative planning with their counterparts in the water sector for the achievement of climate change adaptation readiness in water-scarce regions. The dismantling of bureaucratic barriers to adaptive water resources planning requires urgent attention.