Agricultural Extension Services are preparing to tackle climate change in agriculture in the SADC Region

From 10-14 October, 2016 practitioners from the ministries of agriculture across the SADC countries came together in Cape Town for a training on ‘Tackling climate change in agriculture; approaches to adaptation and climate smart agriculture in the SADC Region’. The training was implemented by the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) with support from Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to enhance the capacity of extension practitioners to address climate change adaptation in their work. Participants came from Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The training covered topics on climate change impacts on agriculture in SADC, vulnerability for crop and livestock production, the concepts and steps of climate proofing agricultural value chains with options for adaptation and mitigation, and prioritisation of climate smart agriculture practices and technologies.

The heart of the training was the application of the Climate Proofing approach within four regional case studies. In applying the tool which has been developed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and GIZ, the participants worked hard to apply their newly acquired skills within four regional case studies. The groups identified the key climate risks and main vulnerabilities as well as potential impacts of climate change, and selected potential adaptation options within maize, sorghum, rice and small livestock production systems in southern Africa.

A number of guest speakers were invited to delve deeper into specific aspects of climate smart agriculture. Dr. Baitsi Podisi from CCARDESA opened the training by highlighting the importance of agriculture in the region and by elaborating the purpose of the SADC Regional Agricultural Policy as guiding mechanism for agricultural development in the region. Dr. Christopher Lennard from the University of Cape Town introduced climate change projections and what can (and cannot) be said regarding climate change in Southern Africa. Mr. Luis Waldmueller (GIZ) explained the effects of climate change on agriculture, emphasizing that agriculture suffers from climate change but also contributes to it.  In a second presentation he introduced climate smart agriculture as one of the approaches to address climate change in agriculture while considering increases in agricultural productivity, the resilience of farming communities and the potential reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

csatrainingDr. Christian Thierfelder from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) focused on conservation agriculture as a set of practices that are also climate smart since they help reduce land degradation, increase water, nutrient and energy use efficiency and can help the farmer adapt to climate change. Dr. Baitsi Podisi (CCARDESA) then focused on the role of livestock in adaptation, where the potential to increase productivity while reducing emissions is high, while especially in drier areas of the region indigenous breeds offer great potential for adaptation. The management of water and soil conservation were presented by Ms. Sarah Beerhalter from the SADC-GIZ Adaptation to Climate Change in Rural Areas Programme (ACCRA) as critical components of climate smart agriculture. Opportunities to reduce inefficiencies in agricultural production also exist in improved post-harvest management of harvested crops and other agricultural products, as explained by Dr. Sipho Sibanda from the South African Agricultural Research Council. The final presentation By Mr. Luis Waldmueller (GIZ) focused on the importance of gender in adaptation, as women need to receive special attention in designing appropriate measures.

One of the highlights of this intensive training week was the excursion to the Langgewens Research Farm of the Western Cape Department of Agriculture in Malmesbury. The senior research officer, Dr. Johann Strauss and his team introduced the long-term trials that are being conducted at the research station on conservation agriculture. The excursion covered different crop rotations, cover crops and fodder systems, which are assessed for environmental and economic benefits, as well as the integration of sheep into the system.

Adapting our agricultural systems to the impacts of climate change is critical to ensure regional food security and resilience into the future. The participants traveled home with new ideas to apply in their extension work with farmers. CCARDESA and GIZ through the ACCRA programme will continue to offer similar training courses across the region in order to support the climate proofing of agricultural systems in SADC.

For further information about the training programme please CLICK HERE

For further information about CCARDESA and the ACCRA Programme, please contact Dr. Baitsi Podisi (b.podisi@ccardesa.org).

This article was written by Wiebke Foerch, Programme Advisor for the ACCRA project based at CCARDESA

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