In line with the theme for Nelson Mandela Day and the Nelson Mandela Annual lecture “Do what you can with what you have, where you are” which seeks to explore the intersection between food security and climate change, Sylvia Graham, Mandela Day Analyst, speaks to a Limpopo based farmer and public health practitioner to learn more about climate-smart agriculture.
1. Please tell us about yourself and the work that you do.
My name is Linda Olga Nghatsane. I was born in Muhlava Cross, a rural village that is located near Tzaneen town, Greater Tzaneen Municipality in Limpopo Province, South Africa. I grew up in a farming family and I am a public health practitioner, who has worked across the continent in post-conflict communities. I also spent several years working and living in Mozambique. However, I am a farmer at heart, having started in poultry farming in Giyani, Limpopo. I now own and run a fresh produce farm in Tzaneen. I am also a multi-award winner in agriculture, rooted in community development through the lens of food security.
2. What is climate-smart agriculture and why is it important?
The reality is that climate change is upon us, and this is evident in the catastrophic climatic events that we have seen in recent times. All of us reference the recent floods in Kwa-Zulu Natal, increasing temperatures, persistent drought conditions and water conditions as clear indicators of climate change. These changes have a direct impact on agriculture and necessitate a different approach. Climate-smart agriculture is an integrated approach that transforms and reorients agricultural development under the new realities of climate change. It is important because it builds soil health, increases agricultural productivity, and helps communities, with very limited resources, to adapt to climate change.
3. How can climate-smart agricultural practices contribute to climate resilience and positively impact food security in the South African context?
South Africa needs to build climate resilience and adaptation strategies into small-scale agriculture as the impact of climate change will, unfortunately, impact outlying communities disproportionately to the rest. Climate-smart agriculture helps farmers to increase food production by adapting to changing weather patterns that have created scarcity. These strategies are apt to increase yield and income in a sustainable way.
4. Can you please reflect on the intersection that exists between food security and climate change?
Increasing temperatures and precipitation can negatively impact the conditions needed for crops to grow optimally. Furthermore, extreme weather events such as floods and droughts can harm crops, reduce yields, and threaten pasture and livestock
feed supplies. All of the above will reduce production yield, this in turn will result in high food prices due to the scarcity of food.
5. Please tell us about communities that you have worked in and how they have adopted climate-smart agricultural practices.
We are currently working with Vuhehli Drop-In Centre, in Greater Giyani Local Municipality, that has adopted the use of climate-smart agricultural techniques and practices as a strategy to adapt to the effects of climate change in the area.
Their climate-smart garden was established to plant vegetables under a shade-net structure where mulch is applied, and a drip irrigation system is installed. The shade net will protect the vegetables against extreme temperatures, hailstorms and insects, meanwhile, the mulch will provide a blanket for the soil to prevent weeds thus avoiding drudgery, the drip irrigation is a strategy towards water management to conserve water, the use of compost encourages communities to conserve the environment.
Additional elements of climate-smart interventions include rainwater harvesting to capture runoff and rooftop water, the use of biogas produced from agricultural waste to create clean energy used for cooking rather than using firewood, charcoal coolers that helps to extend the shelf life of harvested vegetables for sale, and a solar dryer that dries excess produce to be sold as dried fruits and vegetables. The garden is also resourced with an egg production unit to generate additional income for the centre.
This strategy has improved food security by making agricultural products available at a community level with resultant improved community nutrition. This has also enhanced income generation, strengthening the local economy while the community adapts sustainably to climate change.
6. What is your vision for the future of small-scale agriculture in South Africa?
My vision is to “turn stumbling blocks into stepping-stones for development” using climate-smart agriculture farming methods to strengthen household and community food security.