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South Africa: Young farmers engagement in climate smart agriculture

South Africa: Young farmers engagement in climate smart agriculture

In South Africa, ICCO established a partnership with a very active farmer organisation (AFASA – African Farmer Association of South Africa).  This organisation is driven by vibrant young African women with varying university qualifications and are commercial farmers in their making. ICCO was invited to give a talk on Climate Smart Agriculture during the 3rd Annual AFASA Young Farmers Summit held on the 28th and 29th August 2018 in Johannesburg.    

The summit was fairly represented by young farmers from the 9 provinces of South Africa, banks, marketing agencies and agribusiness organisations.  Interestingly, young farmers in the assembly were in one way or the other very much aware and/or had witnessed the effect of climate change in the varying agribusinesses line of operation.  The subject was relevant to them and close to their heart. This was also an opportunity to raise the interest on ICCO’s programs.

Climate smart agriculture

During my presentation, I highlighted the climate change effects on agriculture as contributed by agriculture itself and partner industrialisation.  Strategies to mitigate climate change point its fingers to the adaptation of Climate Smart Agriculture approach that sought to sustainably increase productivity, enhances resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  This approach is imperative for Africa. The continent is at risk as its population keeps growing and will need to be fed.

Africa still depend on rainfed agriculture, the environment is fragile and vulnerable to water scarcity and environmental degradation by farmers. This is mostly because continent straddles the equator and has two climatic zones, arid & semi-arid zones on either side of the tropics.  Semi-arid areas are thought to be particularly vulnerable to climate change, because these areas are already climatically with high temperatures, low rainfall and long dry seasons.

The good news is that many organisations, like ICCO understand the issue and have agenda programs to champion Climate Smart Agriculture.  However the different actors should ensure that they harmonise their approaches and call for awareness and actions across agricultural sectors and industries.  Farmers, especially smallholders are the most vulnerable to climate change, therefore they need to learn new methods and adapt to using new technologies to their advantage such as diversify crops, control weeds effectively, plant drought tolerant crop varieties suited to their environment.

Involvement of youth in agriculture is key

The young generation is the future, the future for food, thus the importance of their involvement and commitment in sustainable agriculture systems. Experienced old producers should encourage young people to explore career options in agriculture by applying new technologies and new thinking to stimulate and create “cool” jobs in the field.  The fact that wealth creation in agribusiness requires patience and hard work discourage many but we need to take up the challenge if we want to survive. However constraints such as lack of access to land, financial resources and markets, low technical capacity and education, high rates of poverty should be addressed by policy makers.

Some key recommendations

  • African youth can play an important role in achieving the sustainable development goals, especially by addressing food insecurity through Climate Smart Agriculture approaches.  

  • Accessible mentorship and role models in agribusiness could also be a great motivation to engage youth in the field.

  • Perception regarding agriculture across generations need to be addressed so future generation can regard agriculture as a respectable and rewarding source of livelihood.  

  • Governments, non-governmental organisations, international agencies & research institutions, need to establish enabling environments, including incentives, to support young population’s initiatives to take up agriculture.

A blog by Tlangelani Cedric Baloyi, Farmer Relations Manager for the Farmer to Market project in South Africa

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