Farming for a green future
The CSIR is participating in the Switch Africa Green (SAG) programme to facilitate the transition to a green economy in the agri-food sector of South Africa. CSIR sustainability experts identified several capacity and information gaps that must be addressed for small-scale vegetable farmers to align their farming activities to green economy principles.
The project “Sustainable production and commercialisation strategies in the agri-food sector in South Africa,” is part of the broader SAG programme which is active in six African countries: Burkina Faso, Kenya, Ghana, Mauritius, Uganda and South Africa. The programme – funded by the European Union - aims to increase the knowledge and capacity of micro, small and medium enterprises thereby enabling these enterprises to apply the principles of the green economy in their production and marketing activities. In South Africa, small-scale farmers located in three districts in the Limpopo Province: Mopani, Waterberg and Capricorn were selected to participate in the project.
In South Africa, the theoretical aspects of a green economy are well documented however; there is very little practical experience in green economy implementation in the agricultural sector. This project addresses this shortfall by building the capacity of small scale farmers and relevant stakeholders in the sector to support and implement vegetable production and marketing compatible with South Africa’s green economy aspirations.
CSIR sustainability experts took a pilot study approach, identifying three districts in Limpopo Province – where agriculture is a critical gross domestic product contributing sector. A focus was placed on understanding the operating environment of small scale farmers and identifying their capacity needs. CSIR researchers took into account crops grown, irrigation practices and methods, water sources and rotations amongst others. All of the farms in the pilot study use conventional or industrial farming methods, which are characterised by the intensive use of resources with a heavy reliance on chemical inputs such as synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. None of the farmers followed organic or green production practices.
Investigations found that there were several production and marketing constraints. Some of these include climate change and changing rainfall patterns, water shortages, a lack of transport and inconsistent production amongst others.
In order to enhance production and marketing sustainability, CSIR researchers proposed several capacity and information gaps that must be addressed. It was proposed that farmers be introduced to techniques for producing with less water in a warm environment. Capacity building must include strategies for adapting to climate change and irrigation scheduling. Finally, it was proposed that farmers should receive assistance on identifying and implementing value addition on a sustainable basis.
CSIR sustainability experts worked directly with a diverse set of stakeholders representing government, the private sector, farmers’ organisations, policy makers and farmers to achieve the project’s its objectives. The SAG programme is designed to achieve sustainable development through supporting inclusive growth through policy support, networking and green business development.
Dr Constansia Musvoto