Agriculture & the Enviroment

Climate Change and Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA)

on Friday, 31 January 2014. Posted in Agriculture & the Enviroment

The term climate change is often used interchangeably with the term global warming, but 'climate change' is a more accurate word because it shows that there are many weather changes happening besides rising temperatures. Climate change is caused by natural factors, such as changes in the sun's strength or slow changes in the Earth's orbit around the sun; natural processes within the climate system (e.g. changes in ocean circulation); human activities that change the atmosphere (e.g. through burning fossil fuels) and the land surface (e.g. deforestation, reforestation, urbanization, desertification, etc.)

 

Food security and smallholder farmers

on Friday, 31 January 2014. Posted in Agriculture & the Enviroment

The agricultural economy of South Africa is divided into two sections - large agro-industrial commercial farmers who grow food for profit and often for export, and small-scale farmers who grow food for their own consumption. There is a huge gap in between these two categories that could be filled by emerging farmers who grow food not just to eat, but to sell and earn an income and even to create jobs. There are roughly 3 million small-scale farmers in South Africa who produce food primarily to feed their families, and 240 000 black commercially oriented farmers that not only feed their families, but also provide jobs for 500 000 people. The small-scale farmers practice subsistence production or smallholder production which increases food supplies and thus cushion households from food price shocks, thereby improving household food security. It also improves human health since eating fresh vegetables has many nutrients and vitamins. If these farmers could expand their operations and grow more, they could generate a cash income. However, they face many challenges in their attempts to expand, most importantly, the poor quality of the land that they live on and the lack of seeds, water, mechanical interventions like tractors, and transport to get their extra products to the market. If they had these inputs, they could become the foundation of the country's emerging commercial farming class.

 

From smallholder to emerging farmers – the transition economy

on Friday, 31 January 2014. Posted in Agriculture & the Enviroment

While in the past rural households produced most of their own food, this has changed and there is an increasing dependence on market purchases so that food expenditures can account for as much as 60-80% of total household income for low-income households. Smallholder agriculture can play an important role in reducing the vulnerability of rural food-insecure households, improving livelihoods, and helping to overcome high food price inflation. There is a need to significantly increase the productivity of smallholder agriculture and ensure long-term food security. This can be achieved by encouraging farmers to pursue sustainable intensification of production through the use of improved inputs.

 

Improving yields of smallholder farmers

on Friday, 31 January 2014. Posted in Agriculture & the Enviroment

South Africa’s poor, rural families are ready to move away from dependence on social welfare and develop small farming businesses to alleviate food insecurity and create jobs. Subsistence production reduces household food costs but some trading is inevitably necessary to satisfy all food and non-food needs. Emerging farmers are inherently small – small land sizes and diverse production modes – making survival difficult in the modern agriculture economy. Even though smallholder farmers ensure that there is food on the table, they need to become more productive to increase their outputs and yields. They need support to take up farming methods that improve their crops. There are many initiatives to assist the improvement in the technical aspects of farming – vaccine research, extension services, and agricultural training colleges and they need to be linked to rural development.

 

Indigenous African Vegetables

on Friday, 31 January 2014. Posted in Agriculture & the Enviroment

Leafy vegetables have played and continue to play an important role in the food systems of African people in South Africa. Urbanisation and the influence of urban life style on the rural African population resulting from urban-rural linkages are altering the species composition of morogo in favour of western vegetable species, particularly Swiss chard. In the rural areas, indigenous and indigenised leafy vegetables, growing in the wild, as weeds in cropped fields or cultivated are still used extensively by contemporary households in this country and the potential to develop selected species into commodities has been recognised. At community and household level, knowledge associated with these vegetables is essentially passed on from one generation to the next and in certain parts there is the risk that this knowledge can be lost. Considering their potential nutritional value, indigenous and indigenised leafy vegetables could contribute in a major way to the food security and balanced diets of rural households.

 

Land reform and ownership

on Friday, 31 January 2014. Posted in Agriculture & the Enviroment

In the new South Arica, land distribution is almost the same as it was under apartheid and tribal governance areas and poor areas are in the former homelands, so where people do have land it is the same land the apartheid government was prepared to give away, which is the poorest quality land. Therefore it is no good talking about rural development in terms of building services in these areas — this land was always unsuitable for supporting the number of people occupying it. The land is also overcrowded. Rural people living in these areas are hungry and they are also land hungry; to change the apartheid maps means we need to move people out of these tiny areas and create opportunities elsewhere, giving people access to better quality land for farming. Simply providing services in these areas will not change the apartheid landscape and will not greatly improve rural livelihoods. Rural development means giving people access to land outside these former Bantustans. For this reason, any intervention into agriculture should underline the need for land reform.

 

Linking smallholder farmers to markets

on Friday, 31 January 2014. Posted in Agriculture & the Enviroment

A lack of support for small holder agriculture and subsistence farmers means they have no way to gain entry into the food value chains — the bureaucracy involved in becoming an approved supplier to a supermarket, for example, is too complicated and costly for small farmers. There are usually three common marketing destinations for smallholder farmers: fresh produce markets, informal markets and supermarket chains. Government initiatives are acknowledged as the most inclusive, but not necessarily the most effective at integrating smallholder farmers into value chains.

 

Nutrition and food security

on Friday, 31 January 2014. Posted in Agriculture & the Enviroment

Malnutrition results from having an unbalanced diet. The condition is common amongst children and it affects their intellectual development. According to a UNICEF Report, more than 20 million children around the world suffer from severe malnutrition with 300,000 of them hailing from the Horn of Africa. In Sub-Saharan Africa over 40 percent of the children are malnourished. The main causes of malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa are high levels of poverty, poor government policies and drought. All these have contributed to limited food stocks. When a community has high number of childhood deaths, it has had a knock-on effect in the sense that there are fewer hands to do agricultural work and so agricultural productivity declines. It is time for governments and legislators to make political commitments to reduce malnutrition. Scaling up nutrition in Africa requires political commitment to demand the allocation of resources, high impact interventions in health targeting mothers and children, programs in food security, agriculture, water, hygiene and sanitation and social protection, which can all be done through the parliaments.

 

Organic agriculture

on Friday, 31 January 2014. Posted in Agriculture & the Enviroment

Organic is nothing new in Africa – the indigenous farming systems that were used in the past could be referred as organic farming – they did not use pesticides and the method of producing the food relied on the natural resource base. Organic farming relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control. While fertilizers and pesticides are used, it excludes the use of manufactured (synthetic) fertilizers, pesticides, plant growth regulators such as hormones, livestock antibiotics, food additives, genetically modified organisms, human sewage sludge. The organic farmers use a range of techniques that help sustain ecosystems and reduce pollution. Organic farming is particularly suited to smallholder farmers since from an input-efficiency perspective, many organic farms have superior yields. The food is also healthier. The South African government is supportive of organic farming and has recognised its potential for improving income, generating new supply streams and boosting rural agriculture.

 

Permaculture

on Friday, 31 January 2014. Posted in Agriculture & the Enviroment

Permaculture is based on environmental principles: care of the earth, care of the people and sharing of resources. Care of the earth involves not using chemicals and growing plants that benefit the soil rather than ruining it; care of the people involves not using poisons in the food and providing healthy, well combined food for people to eat. ‘Sharing of resources’ means giving away surplus food and preparing meals from our surplus that can support people who are sick, poor or need support. It can also mean saving seeds from the food that you harvest to grow more for the next year. The aim is to 'integrate rather than segregate' which means that by putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other. Such relationships are commonly organized in spatial patterns common in natural systems.

 

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