Promoting climate smart agriculture in southern Africa

On 11th of August 2016, the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) with support of the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), and in collaboration with the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) of South Africa convened a regional Climate Smart Agriculture Conference at Birchwood Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa. Nearly one hundred participants from the SADC region and beyond attended the conference, coming from Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as from Kenya and Somalia. Participants included senior officials from national ministries and extension services, researchers and development partners.

The conference programme presented a unique group of speakers from national ministries, universities and international organisations across the region an opportunity to share latest findings and best practices on climate smart agriculture in southern Africa. Some of the highlights:

Ms. Sarah Beerhalter (GIZ) from the Programme for Adaptation to Climate Change in Rural Areas in Southern Africa (ACCRA) provided a regional perspective on climate change impacts and adaptation in agriculture in Southern Africa, while Mr. John Mussa from the Malawi Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and Dr. Charles Mutengwa from Fort Hare University showed the importance of policy frameworks for climate smart agriculture in Malawi and South Africa, respectively.

Dr. Amos Ngwira from the Department of Agricultural Research Services in Malawi, Mr. Crispin Miyanda (WWF Zambia) and Dr. Kalaluka Munyinda (University of Zambia) gave examples from successful implementation of climate smart agriculture on the ground. Ngwira observed that conservation agriculture practices performed well in dry years, but gave poor results in very wet years. Munyinda shared research results which demonstrated that the use of coated urea is more efficient than the use of conventional urea and that urea can be packaged into brickets for easier application instead of the granules.

Dr. Christine Lamanna from the CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) based at the World Agroforestry Centre explained the trade-offs and synergies between adaptation, mitigation and agricultural productivity and presented a prioritization tool for climate smart agriculture practices and technologies which can help identify what practices work well in a given setting and environment.

Dr. Tingmin Yu from the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) of South Africa showed new developments of a cost-efficient, smart herbicide sprayer that can save farmers money while at the same time reducing herbicide applications, health risks and environmental impact. Vermiculture, the process of using earthworms to produce compost, is a climate smart technology relatively new to the SADC region that has huge potential to increase soil fertility in African agriculture, Ms. Salome Modiselle from ARC showed.

Ms. Liesl Keam from VUNA explained that Input Subsidy Programmes are a potential vehicle for influencing technology adoption and could play a role in promoting climate smart practices in Southern Africa. New tools were presented by Ms. Learn Cloete-Beets who showcased the GreenAgri Portal, a web-based portal to disseminate information to farmers and other users, and by Ms. Vanessa Barends, who presented ongoing developments of a carbon tax calculator to help farmers understand and reduce their emissions contributions, both from the Department of Agriculture from the Western Cape in South Africa. 

 The uptake of agricultural practices and research results by extension services, policy makers or farmers heavily relies on targeted communication and knowledge translation, which was highlighted by Dr. Olekae Thakadu from the Okavango Research Institute (University of Botswana).

The conference provided participants with great examples of the potential of climate smart agriculture to help farmers in southern Africa increase their agricultural yields and at the same time adapt to climate change. Feedback of the participants showed the continued high demand for further information and training on climate change adaptation in agriculture and climate smart agriculture. The current drought conditions in southern Africa highlight the urgency for improved adaptation to climate shocks and longer term climate change in African agriculture. An increasing number of international, regional and national stakeholders need to get involved in creating awareness and promoting the benefits of climate smart agriculture as a strategy for successful climate change adaptation across the SADC region

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