Jambo Africa Online’s Publisher, SAUL MOLOBI, reports on the successful three-day work that introduced emerging farmers to climate smart agriculture. 

Life is full of antonyms and contradictions that characterise our daily lives. Passion and pain. Happy and wistful. Wise, foolish. Fat, slim. Warm, cool. Early, late. Happily married?

Pardon the last coinage my dearest reader, I just wanted to get your full attention so that you could concentrate on this next pair which forms the basis of this article as it isn’t tackling a Dr Phil/Sis Dolly kind of subject, but the real threat that may lead to human extinction: food security and climate change.

These two concepts, plus a number of variations that actually communicates the same essence of sustainability,  are so crucial that they are part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Just as a way of a brief background, in September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that included 17 SDGs.  Building on the principle of “leaving no one behind”, the new Agenda emphasised a holistic approach to achieving sustainable development for all. These SDGs relate to job creation, sustainable livelihoods, improved health, technology and skills development, gender equality, food security, green technologies and climate change.

For those of us who subscribe to the epistemology of Marxism, we often recite with aplomb and gusto an extract from historical materialism which argues that men live to make history… but in order for them to live and to make history, they have to eat… and the production of this food is the first historical act. I remember when we were kept at the then Pietersburg prison in the mid-1980s detained under the State of Emergency and the youngest of us abusing this maxim in arguing against us embarking on a proposed hunger strike to protest against the draconian apartheid regime for detaining us indefinitely without pressing any charges. The young lion warned, obviously scared about the fatal repercussions, argued we couldn’t make history by starving ourselves to death as we argued our protest action was to be indefinite as much as our detention was.

Excuse my detour. But I do hope you do get the essence of food security and the significance of food production from this Marxist thought. Industrialisation has helped to advance humanity but unfortunately it has also inflicted unfathomable damage to the environment – hence we’re now dealing with the challenge of global warming which poses a huge threat to food security. It is for this reason that three variables now have to be part of every institution’s strategic imperative: environment, social and governance (ESG) considerations. Another buzzword dominant in our discourse is the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). 

These are the issues that were dealt with at the Climate Smart Agriculture workshop which was held this week, from 22 to 24 February. As we reported in this news portal last week, climate change is a threat to our food security. We have to adopt climate-smart agriculture techniques to mitigate against this. The workshop endeavoured to show how can the industry deploy the 4IR techniques into our agriculture sector? 

Delivered eloquently by the College of Agricultural Sciences at the University of South Africa (UNISA) and its partners – namely, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DEFF) and multilateral institutions, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations – the project was led by UNISA Enterprises – a revenue generating agency of UNISA. The agency’s partners were Farmers Africa Connect (FCA) that mobilised stakeholder engagement and the Brandhill Africa group that provided marketing and economic diplomacy services.

Although the workshop was envisaged to target emerging South African farmers, its online delivery mechanism plus extensive digital marketing reach (promotions through social media platforms and live broadcast on Facebook) made it accessible to participants not only from Africa but also from other continents with interest on Africa.

The programme was divided into three modules, which were as follows:

  1. Climate-smart crop productión’

Those taking this module were made to understand how climate-smart agriculture (CSA) differed from mainstream agriculture in crop production and why it was important to adopt CSA under the current climate change regimes. They were also made to understand the following: different practices used in CSA; how to conserve soil and water as natural resources; enhance crop production at minimal negative impact to the environment; minimise greenhouse gas emissions in crop production systems; integrated pest control; integrated fertiliser management; crop adaptations; and the negative impacts of mainstream agriculture on the environment.

Click here or below to access the two-hour video recording of the first module.

  • ‘Climate-smart live-stock production systems’

This module was intended to capacitate key stakeholders in South Africa to apply the guidelines provided in the document: “Actionable guidelines for the implementation of climate-smart agriculture in South Africa) on climate-smart agriculture (CSA)”. 

Click here or below to access the two-hour video recording of the second module.

  • The use of remote sensing in climate-smart agricultural practices’

This e-learning module was aimed at helping candidates to understand and gain practical knowledge of basic remote sensing and how this technique can be used to enhance adaptation and mitigation strategies under climate change. Candidates were made to understand the concept of climate-smart agriculture and the importance of remote sensing tools to livestock and crop production. 

Click here or below to access the two-hour video recording of the last module.

Those interested in receiving the course materials presented should please send an email to Yvette Pieterse, the Project Administrator and Key Accounts Manager at UNISA Enterprises (Pty) Ltd, by clicking here

The success of the workshop was eloquently captured by Dr Dustin Ramahanedza, the Global CEO of Farmers Connect Africa, when he waxed lyrically:

“Our impression as Farmers Connect Africa  of the three days climate smart agriculture conference affirms the usually untapped capacity that exist between the private and public sector institutions in delivering on such critical and relevant projects. 

“The three days unearthed and exposed CSA as an integrated approach to managing landscapes; cropland, livestock, forests and fisheries and addressed the interlinked challenges of food security and brought to the forefront critical issues around climate change considerations..

“The conference; through exceptionally capable facilitators and relevant support pannels cemented the need for conference delegates to further appreciate concepts such as increased agricultural productivity: for improved nutrition and food security and enhanced resilience: for the reduction of vulnerability to drought,  erratic weather patterns; better pests control, the use of relevant technologies to support CSA and better control of diseases and other climate-related risks.

“It was an absolute honour that our members were able to participate in the conference and we look forward to seeing resulting pilot projects and are grateful for the support from the various program partners.”