Climate-smart agriculture, or CSA, can help South Africa adapt to the harsh realities of climate change, he department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries (DAFF) says in a new draft strategic plan – and the time to start preparing is now.
The department published its draft Climate Smart Agricultural Strategic Framework on Friday. It is open for comment until early October.
A climate-smart agriculture plan should be "farmer-centred", the department said, "with government steering but not rowing the policy development boat".
The framework is intended to "guide actions at all levels of government, investors and development partners" in efforts to bring climate-smart agriculture into the mainstream.
The draft, as it stands, is a "negotiated balance between the scientifically sound, the diplomatically acceptable, politically relevant and the demands and realities of farmers, foresters and fishers", the DAFF said.
Here are some of the highlights from the framework.
The framework includes several recommendations to limit the effort expended in fishing, including "fitting vessels with governors to limit maximum speed" and upgrading vessels to better engines.
The document stresses the use of fuel in fishing again and again, in various different ways, but makes only passing mention of fuel in agriculture, saying that smallholder farmers should be disincentivised from high fuel consumption, without any detail on how this should be done.
Priority initiatives should include considering the relocation of fish farms at threat from rising sea levels, the framework drafts says.
"Particularly, this is will probably affect abalone farms."
Another priority action should be "gathering and understanding the vast body of knowledge which traditional communities, particularly those in hazard prone areas, have collectively generated on disaster prevention and mitigation, early warning, preparedness and response", the department says.
Livestock farmers should be encouraged to use "medication that draws from local indigenous knowledge", the framework suggests, in one of the few concrete examples of integrating traditional knowledge into policy, as the draft document says should be done.
Climate-smart agriculture requires a lot of good data, the strategic framework says, on everything from health trends to weather patterns.
It also needs social media.
"Innovation information sharing platforms such as Facebook" and Wikpedia should be used to collect and store knowledge, the draft policy says.
"The knowledge generated and the information collected must be effectively managed and communicated through modern foras such as social media targeting youth."
In 73 pages the draft framework never refers to genetically-modified organisms in any way, either positive or negative – despite being very clear on the need for new breeds of animals and plants.
South Africa should develop new livestock and fish breeds "not only for climate-resilience and sustainable productivity, but also for improving farming practices that reduce [greenhouse gases] emission," the document says.
It also recommends "breeding and screening" for traits such as early maturity, drought tolerance, the ability to withstand being submerged or exposed to salt, low glycaemic index, and high levels of carbon sequestration.
The draft policy recommends at least considering a whole range of finance interventions and tweaks to encourage climate-smart agriculture.
• A 10-year tax holiday for products that come from climate-smart agriculture, and subsidised loans for such efforts
• Payment for ecosystem services (PES), a system of incentives for landowners to restore degraded land and use resources sustainably
• Index-based agricultural insurance packages
• Government re-insurance to support rolling out crop insurance to smallholder farmers
• Guarantees, or insurance, against loss of harvest because climate-smart agriculture changes are implement.
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