Daleen Lötter, CSIR Natural Resources and the Environment
As we prepare for the forthcoming UNFCCC's 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) in less than a week, the critical role that agriculture plays in producing food and providing jobs for the citizens of the country once again comes under the spotlight.
Being highly dualistic, agriculture in South Africa makes an important contribution to the economy through its large-scale commercial sector and large group of small-scale semi-subsistence farms. Primary agriculture comprises about 12% of South Africa's gross domestic product (GDP) through linkages into the economy, and contributes about 8% to formal employment.
|Dairy farming is practiced all over South Africa.
||Irrigation accounts for 50% of the total water use in South Africa.
||The theme page also carries
information on the impacts of
climate change on subsistence agriculture.
A recent national climate change conference organised by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) reiterated the vulnerability of agriculture to climate change and emphasised that it is one of the most climate-sensitive sectors. Agriculture makes up approximately 86% of land use in South Africa, and is thus by far the largest land use practice. Most of this land is utilised for grazing and 12% is cultivated.
With a broad increase in temperatures and shifting rain patterns, climate change will have a profound impact on crop and livestock production. It will affect the availability of, access to and utilisation of food. Climate change therefore presents a major challenge for agriculture and food security in South Africa.
The agriculture theme page is structured in such a way as to address climate change issues in the broadest sense. The idea is to keep the page uniform and easy to access. Agricultural production has been divided into three different sections dealing separately with animal production, crop production and rangelands. All of these sections are further disentangled to contain relevant aspects on statistics, research and case studies.
Commercial agriculture and small-scale/subsistence agriculture is addressed separately. An important aspect of all the different themes throughout the Atlas is that they cannot be seen in isolation. There are critical links between themes, as is also the case with agriculture. Biodiversity and water resources are two central topics within agriculture and are pertinently addressed. Agricultural production and food security are dependent on ecosystem services. The disruption of natural ecosystems is a huge threat as it provides an array of services that ultimately support humans.
Water, on the other hand, is a critical limiting factor for agriculture and currently there is an uncertain water supply and growing demand. Climate change implications for crops and livestock and their associated pests and pathogens are also included, although relevant case studies are quite limited. Useful links have been selected and/or created to guide the user to other important sites containing helpful information on this theme.
The National Department of Agriculture, which is also a partner for this theme, has developed an Atlas on climate change and agriculture which contains a vast number of maps. With their consent, these maps will be made available within the theme page.
One specific study which is highlighted on the page, deals with predicting how adaptation to climate change could affect ecological conservation through secondary impacts of shifting agricultural suitability. According to this study, shifts in crop suitability due to climate change may overlap currently protected areas (PAs) and priority sites for PA expansion in South Africa. At least 323 out of 597 (54%) PAs are projected to be affected by altered wheat or maize suitability in their buffer zones.
Another case study deals with climate change impacts on rooibos production as livelihood strategy for small-scale farmers in the Northern and Western Cape. This study focuses specifically on small-scale and subsistence farmers and will produce maps indicating how areas suitable for rooibos production might be altered in the future.
All maps available on the theme page are currently in graphical format, but the actual data underlying the images will soon be uploaded and made accessible for SARVA users. Other spatial data can be downloaded from the AGIS website to which a link is provided on the theme page.
The agricultural theme page has systematically collated and interpreted the latest significant and relevant research regarding climate change and the various segments underlying agriculture in SA. As more research emerges, the research findings will be made available in a user-friendly format on the theme page. A special forum is in the pipeline that will serve as a platform where SARVA users can contribute data, or ask for further information if required.
|Examples of maps to be found on the Agriculture theme page: Landcover (left); and Study area for the investigation into climate change implications for small-scale farmers' livelihoods and adaptation strategies in the Hantam region of South Africa. Click on the maps to view larger versions.
Visit the Agriculture theme page for more information.