Today (17 May 2016), the Western Cape Government launched a ground-breaking climate change response strategy, known as Smart Agri.
Smart Agri was unveiled by Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, and Anton Bredell, Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning.
The comprehensive climate change response plan sets out a roadmap to combat the impact of extreme weather events on the province’s agriculture sector.
Research and climate change modelling shows annual temperatures are rising and droughts, floods and heat waves will become more regular in the province. These trends highlighted the need for a co-ordinated response from government and the private sector to mitigate the impact of climate change.
The final assessment, and the mitigating steps it proposes, is the result of two years of extensive collaboration and engagement between the Western Cape Government (specifically the Departments of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs and Development Planning), the University of Cape Town’s African Climate and Development Initiative and a wide range of stakeholders in the private sector.
The findings show unequivocally that, if not addressed, climate change will have negative impacts on our region.
- Higher minimum and maximum temperatures, particularly inland;
- Increases in annual temperatures of 1.5 degrees to 3 degrees;
- More hot days and fewer cold and frost days;
- Reduced annual rainfall by mid-century; and
- Possibility of increased rainfall particularly along the south coast
Minister Winde said: “In the recent past we’ve had severe floods, droughts and heat waves. Between 2003 and 2008, these events cost our economy over R3 billion. This assessment has told us that these events are likely to increase in frequency, underscoring the need for urgent action to protect our sector from the threats of climate change. If we do not act, potential jobs and revenue are on the line. Scenario planning shows us that if we continue without a co-ordinated response, the knock on effect will also mean increased food prices. It is our duty to act now to ensure we have a sustainable agriculture sector in the future.
Minister Bredell agreed that extreme weather events are threatening food security and economic growth: “We have many vulnerable communities facing extreme levels of poverty, economic, health and housing challenges that are being compounded by climate change. If not addressed swiftly and rigorously, climate change and its effects will impact basic things like food and water and networks that our economic activities depend upon. Worst of all is the fact that the most vulnerable among us will be the hardest hit.”
Bredell stated that the good news is that matters can be addressed and turned into opportunities, but only if governments are well prepared with science based decision-making support.
“A strategic and inclusive approach is required to build long-term resilience to climate change through “climate smart agriculture”. Owing to its position as a highly vulnerable sector, the agricultural sector is the first sector in the province to benefit from a sectoral climate change response framework and plan. The SmartAgri Plan presents the “road map” for the agricultural sector to travel towards a more productive and sustainable future.”
The final report offers tailored climate change response plans for each of the Western Cape’s key agricultural regions.
To start, the team categorised the different regions of the province’s agriculture sector into 23 “agro-climactic zones”. The plan stipulates the nature of that specific region’s agri-enterprises and the climate challenges which are likely to be experienced in each area.
Using scenario planning, SmartAgri predicts detailed outcomes for a series of possible situations, which include droughts, heat waves and cold spells. The plan explores two scenarios, namely the low road, where climate change mitigation plans are not co-ordinated, and the high road where risks and opportunities are identified and action plans implemented.
The SmartAgri plan puts forward the following six priorities to be driven by government and industry as solutions:
Priority #1: Conservation agriculture
This approach includes minimum tillage, year-round soil cover and crop rotation. Stakeholders in West Coast, Overberg and Eden have prioritised conservation agriculture as a response to climate change.
Priority #2: Restoring degraded landscapes
Factors such as overgrazing of rangelands and the spread of alien plants have led to degradation of indigenous fynbos, succulent Karoo and grassland areas. The benefits of this action include improved soil conservation. It is suggested to pilot the restoration plan in three regions, before a province-wide roll-out. This approach is a top priority for stakeholders in the West Coast, Little Karoo and Central Karoo. There are significant employment opportunities under this priority project.
Priority #3: Improved catchment management for water security and job creation
One strategy here is the removal of invasive alien plants, which reduces the flow of water and impacts water purification. It is recommended that at least one of these projects be located in the eastern part of the Western Cape.
Priority #4: Energy efficiency
This step was prioritised across the province and particularly for regions with substantial irrigation farming and processing and cooling of fresh produce. It is also relevant to export-orientated, fruit and wine industries and intensive life-stock industries, such as dairy. Under this step, clean forms of energy are promoted through the use of case studies as success stories.
Priority #5: “Climate-proofing” the Western Cape’s agri-processing sector
This priority project includes prioritising climate-resilient crops and livestock.
Priority #6: Integrated knowledge system for climate smart practices
Through this priority project, we are seeking to ensure our extension officers become the first port of call for farmers requiring information on smart agriculture practices.
Minister Winde concluded: “SmartAgri is the most authoritative source of information for how climate change will affect our future. It also details concrete action plans for how we can mitigate these threats to build a sustainable agricultural sector which is able to withstand the climate of our future. Our job is to ensure that this plan lands across the Western Cape. This is a challenge we are determined to achieve in collaboration with our partners across all spheres of our province.”
Spokesperson: Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities
Tel: 021 483 3550
Cell: 060 970 4301
James Brent Styan
Spokesperson for Minister Anton Bredell
Cell: 084 583 1670
Tel: 021 483 2820