While North America’s farmers pin their career hopes on the need to feed a hungry Africa, that continent’s farmers are making plans of their own
A core belief in North American agriculture is that our farmers must produce ever more food if we are to have any hope of feeding the world, particularly areas like Africa where the population is growing so rapidly.
The numbers are indeed staggering.
According to the Population Reference Bureau, Africa’s population will hit 2.5 billion by 2050, and the United Nations estimates that Africa’s share of the global population will increase from 16 per cent in 2015 to 25 per cent in 2050 and 39 per cent in 2100.
These statistics certainly do underscore the need for additional food. But what about the other half of the equation. Yes, demand will rise. But will that demand have to be met by imports?
Some African farm leaders are convinced that agricultural development on the continent will see Africa, led by South Africa, feed itself in the decades to come, meaning it will actually reduce its reliance on the global community for its food security.
Realistically, it may set its sights even higher.
“Agriculture accounts for 65 per cent of the continent’s employment,” said Dr. Klaus Eckstein, CEO of Bayer South Africa, at a recent conference of agricultural journalists in South Africa. “Africa has the potential to be self-sustaining as well as to feed the world. We can produce crops that match the standards of leading countries around the world.”
His words were echoed by Dr. John Purchase, CEO of the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa, who stated that revitalizing the agriculture and agri-processing value chain is at the top of nine major focus areas for growth in the country.
It’s not easy farming in South Africa, he added, citing political problems, land reform policies, and water scarcity as significant challenges. The current drought across the Southern and Western Cape areas of the country, a major horticultural production area, is the worst in more than a century, for example.
“Africa is where big population growth will come in the next 35 years… it’s a massive opportunity for agriculture but also a critical risk if we don’t get it right,” Purchase said. “For example, how we manage our water is critical to the future, but we have diversity in South Africa where we can produce a whole range of crops from tropical through to livestock production.”
Progress is already being made with South African farmers and marketers starting to grow sales on their own continent instead of in Europe or elsewhere.
According to Purchase, Africa has become a growing destination for South African agricultural exports since the global economic downturn in 2008 that affected the country’s long-established export markets, particularly in Europe.
“By far since 2008, Africa is our destination; more than 50 per cent of our agricultural export goes into Africa,” Purchase said, attributing a large portion of this success to South African supermarket chains expanding into neighbouring countries like Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mauritius and Zimbabwe.
The change is particularly evident in the fruit and vegetable sector. According to the South African Produce Marketing Association, Africa has surged to number two in the top five major export markets for African fruit, behind only the European Union, and ahead of Asia, the Middle East, United Kingdom and Russia.
In vegetables, Africa is also the second most popular destination, accounting for just over 34 per cent of all fresh vegetable exports from South Africa; 83 per cent of potatoes, 80 per cent of carrots, 78 per cent of garlic, 76 per cent of ginger, 54 per cent of cucumbers and 34 per cent of tomatoes stay on the continent.
“Africa is the only part in the world where land can still be brought into production; the countries with the biggest growth potential in Africa and potential for South African farmers are in western and eastern Africa,” said Lindie Stroebel, CEO of the Produce Marketing Association. “Local procurement has become a priority for some supermarkets to address complications of transportation and border crossing.”
This evolution is evidence of the forward-thinking attitude of many leading farmers in South Africa despite the risks posed by infrastructure challenges, climate change, government policies and a growing number of brutal attacks on predominantly white farmers in the country.
Brylene Chitsunge is one such example, having bought her 1,000-acre farm near Pretoria in 2010. The feisty black farm leader raises Kalahari red goats, a breed of African cattle called Nguni, pigs, ostrich, rabbits and chickens, as well as growing vegetable and fruit crops.
Innovation and collaboration are the name of the game on her farm, where she’s willing to try just about anything to see if it will succeed, with the rule being “everything has to produce.”
Chitsunge’s small tomato crop now fills 10 greenhouses and is sold to over 200 restaurants as well as in leading South African retail chains like Pick n Pay and SPAR. She invented an overhead spray system for her greenhouses to help her produce a consistent, quality crop — each 1,000-plant greenhouse will produce about 10 tons of tomatoes.
“Quality, sustainability and appearance are very important,” Chitsunge said, adding that technology can help farmers add value. “I have cameras to stream video of my veggie fields or my chickens laying eggs for customers and I can remote-view my farm from anywhere.”
She’s also an outspoken advocate for advancing women and small-holder farmers, and for the need for education to build Africa’s agricultural future.
“It’s a value train, not a value chain,” Chitsunge says. “Education is so important, and if we get that right, it’s time for Africa,” she said.
The Schoeman family has been growing citrus in South Africa for almost a century, and the family business ships oranges, lemons, and mandarins from its almost 3,500 acres northeast of Pretoria to 32 countries around the world, including Canada.
They’re in the midst of building a new pack house to accommodate new plantings of mandarins and lemons, and are transitioning towards bio-friendly production, always with an eye to the future.
“If my neighbour’s farm goes up for sale, I would buy it; we have such a strong belief in South Africa,” said family patriarch Kallie Schoeman, a former South African national farmer of the year whose self-proclaimed motto is: “Get bigger, get better or get out.”
ZZ2 is one of South Africa’s largest produce companies, growing tomatoes, avocados, mangoes, and more, as well as raising stud cattle and weaners. The family-owned business employs almost 10,000 people in primary agriculture throughout South Africa, and uses a consistently updated framework to lead company development for the next 12 months.
That includes constantly adding new crops, new land, new technologies, and new markets as well as continually seeking out new opportunities.
For example, ZZ2 recently added almost 30 acres of cherries which strategically ripen about the time when British Columbia’s crop ends — making the company the only one in the world with fresh cherries for a six-week period, said ZZ2’s CEO Tommie van Zyl.
“We never thought we’d have a product that was so wanted it is being flown out — they’re flying to Hong Kong right now,” van Zyl said.
It’s a pattern that is repeated more and more, with horticulture creating models for other farmers to follow.
“We are building ZZ2 for the future, and the way we see things developing, it will represent in the future what South Africa looks like,” said van Zyl. “The future is more important than the past… we are inspired by what we think we can become.”
Great leaders protect their nations and their communities by addressing current threats, scanning the horizon for approaching storms and transforming policies as needed. They understand that being prepared, as the Boy Scouts have taught us, is the requisite of security.
Today, without any doubt, the Earth’s climate is changing. In 2016, global temperatures were the highest recorded, surpassing the previous record set only the year before. Rising seas are already threatening island nations and coastal communities. Drought has forced millions of families to migrate in search of food, while the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have described climate shifts as a serious potential threat to the United States.
This is a threat that we must heed. We do not want to be caught unaware and in denial like the grasshopper of Aesop’s fables.
What do we do? One approach is to wait for the government to act. This is a hazardous path. As a candidate, President Donald Trump called climate change a hoax and dismissed the Paris Agreement as misguided.
China has taken the opposite position. It has committed to aggressive emissions reduction targets and, by some reports, is already ahead of schedule. In January, China halted plans for 103 coal-fired plants. Simultaneously, it is committing billions of dollars toward a low-carbon economy, creating jobs in renewable energy and supporting emerging nations in their efforts to adapt to the onslaught of climate change.
This does not mean that we in the U.S. are paralyzed. Climate change, in fact, has ushered in a renaissance in design, land use and technology. Businesses and universities are investing in new technologies as well as new partnerships with the focused mission of solving the climate challenge, with or without the government.
Architects are designing buildings that generate more energy than they consume. Farmers are using cropland more efficiently to prevent expansion into carbon-storing forest ecosystems. And cities, businesses and universities are continuing to invest in clean-energy breakthroughs that are driving down the price of wind and solar.
“Humanity has the capacity and the ingenuity to respond to climate stress. To do so, we must remember that no great transformation has been led by government alone”
In November, immediately after the U.S. presidential election and concurrent with the United Nations climate negotiations, the worlds of innovation and tradition came together as entrepreneurs and indigenous leaders joined forces to plan decentralized action to fight climate change. The result is the Roadmap, a call to action to create new inclusive models of change to fight climate change together as a global community.
One non-technological solution put forward was simply to support the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, who control nearly 25 percent of the Earth’s surface and most of the planet’s healthy ecological systems. Their forests, if managed wisely, could capture one-third of the total amount needed to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is what many scientists believe is the limit for avoiding the worst effects of climate change.
There is no doubt that humanity has the capacity and the ingenuity to respond to climate stress. To do so, we must remember that no great transformation has been led by government alone. It always has been up to private citizens to provide the solutions to back up formal policy.
Now, we push forward with that work, with or without the U.S. government. No matter what our government does, we — citizens, communities and businesses — must not hold back our creativity, urgency and investment.
This is the time for transformation without permission.
As Tanzania grapples with delayed rains that are certain to adversely affect agriculture, new analyses tout increased investment in irrigation as a solution to food insecurity.
Tanzania generates its food mostly through rain-fed agriculture which is currently being threatened by drought facing East African countries.
Agriculture accounts for about 25 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and the sector employs nearly 70 per cent of the working population.
Most parts of the country received rains below average between October and December last year and there are signs there will be insufficient harvests this agricultural season.
As experts advise the government to evaluate the drought in order to have a clear picture of what the food situation will be in the next few months and take the necessary precautionary measures, irrigation farming is being suggested as the long-term intervention needed to save agriculture. Tanzania is one of the countries which have a huge potential for irrigation farming–a potential that hasn’t been well exploited.
The National Irrigation Master Plan (NIMP) 2002 prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Security and Co-operatives in collaboration with the government of Japan through its International Cooperation Agency (Jica) indicated that the total irrigation development potential in Tanzania Mainland stands at 29.4 million hectares.
Out of those, 2.3 million hectares are classified as high potential, 4.8 million hectares medium potential and 22.3 million hectares as low potential.
However, presently only 460,000 hectares are under irrigation. However, the government says it targets to expand irrigation farming to cover at least one million hectares come 2020.
The director general of the National Irrigation Commission, Mr Seth Luswema, says there is political will to develop irrigation in the country but more investment focus is needed from both the public and the private sector.
“We are now reviewing the irrigation masterplan as part of our effort to reach the targets,” he said over the phone, adding:
“Funding is still a challenge and as you know, it depends on the revenue collection. Some projects are integrated to have water resources and generate power. This kind of investment is not a joke. It needs collective efforts from public and private sectors,” he added.
He said Tanzania needs between Sh2 trillion and Sh5 trillion to complete irrigation projects that will increase the coverage to one million hectares as planned.
According to him, Tanzania has 2,800 irrigation schemes countrywide.
Tanzania enacted the National Irrigation Act 2013 in a bid to protect farmers from the growing stresses of extreme weather and climate change, by promoting better use of irrigation.
The National Irrigation Act strengthens the National Irrigation Policy of 2010.
Among other things, the law establishes the Irrigation Commission, a national body with the mandate to coordinate, promote and regulate irrigation activities across the country.
Researchers and experts are rooting for more investment in the irrigation farming as solution for the farmers to manage drought caused by climate change and reduce hunger.
“The development of irrigated agriculture has boosted agricultural yields and increased the number of cropping seasons to two or more in many parts of the world, thereby conserving important forest resources, contributing to price stability under climate variability, and helping to feed the world’s growing population,” says the deputy director of the Environment and Production Technology Division of the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Claudia Ringler in a summary of new analyses.
For instance, rice production in irrigation schemes with developed infrastructure is estimated to be over 5.0 tonnes per hectare while under rain-fed agriculture the yield is less than 2 tonnes per hectare.
Last October, the 2016 Global Hunger Index (GHI) of the IFPRI ranked Tanzania 96 out of 118 countries, with a “serious” level of hunger. The country has made significant progress in reducing hunger, according to the report though, down from a high of 42.4 score in the “alarming” category in 2000 to 28.4 in 2016.
The GHI is a tool designed for the IFPRI to comprehensively measure and track hunger globally, regionally, and by country.
Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda were in the same group of “serious” level of hunger but with different scores.
The analyses indicate that a combination of accelerated irrigation development with increased investments in water use efficiency at the basin scale would reduce prices of rice, wheat, and maize by 7.4 per cent, 3.6 per cent, and 1.5 per cent, respectively by 2030.
“Although some of these investments might seem expensive, they would provide huge benefits to communities in the developing world and have the potential to help millions leave poverty and hunger behind,” adds Ms Ringler.
The African Agri Council presents the exclusive African Agri Investment Indaba, set to bring together hundreds of senior decision-makers from across the entire agri value chain including government officials, commercial farmers and agri stakeholders who are ready to connect with strategic and technical solution providers and looking for innovative investment and finance partners.
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- Senzeni Zokwana, Minister, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of the Republic of South Africa. South Africa
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- Nhlanhla Nene, Resident Advisor, Thebe Investment Corporation and Non-Executive Board Member, Allan Gray. South Africa
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For more information please view our brochure. We look forward to welcoming you to the Indaba!
In the Karoo, jackal and caracal favour micromammals such as Karoo bush rats and the four-striped field mouse, and will target these as a key part of their diet, even when there are sheep and goats available.
Many livestock farmers in the Karoo who have been losing sheep and goats to jackal and caracal have realised that night hunting, poisoning and trapping is not working. They have been waiting for other solutions.
Research conducted over three years in the Laingsburg district of the Karoo by the University of Cape Town’s Department of Biological Sciences, could offer an important key in the livestock predation battle.
The research area included 22 neighbouring sheep farms in the Laingsburg district of the Karoo and the Anysberg Nature Reserve, one of CapeNature’s reserves, situated southwest of the project farms.
Income similar to schoolteachers
Laingsburg is a marginal farming area. Rainfall is in the order of 120 to 130 mm per year. The average flock size is 642 ewes, but a quarter of the flocks consist of fewer than 300 ewes each and half the farmers have an income similar to that of schoolteachers. Farmers cannot afford to lose more animals – it is putting the local agricultural economy at risk.
‘They are trying to produce food and at the same time they are told to stop persecuting predators. We worked with farmers to understand exactly what is happening on these farms from an holistic perspective, including an assessment of predators, farm management and the general biodiversity status of the area,’ says behavioural ecologist Professor Justin O’Riain of the University of Cape Town’s Department of Biological Sciences.
One of the largest camera trap surveys
To gain a better understanding of how mesopredators like jackal and caracal behave, PhD student, Marine Drouilly, supervised by O’Riain, compared on-farm research data with research data from the Anysberg Nature Reserve, based on the largest camera trap surveys ever undertaken in the Karoo. Between October 2012 and June 2015, 332 camera traps were set up over the survey area of approximately 160 000 hectares.
Half of the camera traps were set up on the 22 sheep farms and the other half in the reserve. The camera trap findings were combined to produce a biodiversity assessment of the area. Smaller assessments have been done on individual farms but never on this scale.
80 farmers participated in the research
In addition, 80 farmers participated in the research and provided key information in questionnaires regarding their tolerance to wildlife and predators.
The WWF Nedbank Green Trust co-funded this project, which was managed by the University of Cape Town’s Sustainable Societies Unit in the Centre for Social Science Research (CSSR).
Several of the farmers claimed losses of up to 70% but it was not possible to confirm this as many of the farmers in the project research did not know exactly how many lambs they were supposed to have in a season. ‘Mainly for cost reasons, many of the farmers don’t scan their ewes so they do not know if they are pregnant or whether the ewe is carrying a single lamb or twins,’ Drouilly explains.
‘The four farmers who use electric fencing showed far lower sheep losses but many of the famers said all kinds of fencing was too expensive for them and that they did not have sufficient labour to regularly patrol their fences.’
Vegetation rehabilitation could be key
In this very arid environment, the grazing by sheep and goats limited and reduced the vegetation cover. The sparser the vegetation the lower the rodent population, with an accompanying increase in the predation of sheep by caracal and jackal. “What we found in this study is that predators prefer micromammals to domestic livestock, but domestic livestock are so much more abundant on farmlands and so they ended up as major prey for the mesopredators”, says Drouilly who used her camera trapping data as a measure of prey availability and an electivity index to determine which source of prey the predators were showing a preference for.
‘The data indicates that vegetation rehabilitation could be one of the keys to predator control, along with better protection of livestock,’ she adds.
Drouilly’s research also calls into question the adverse outcome of farmers’ longstanding approaches to controlling the predators, including poisoning. This is not only illegal it is completely counterproductive as it simultaneously kills the rodents that are an important part of the predators’ diet.
Comprehensive recent research by zoologist and conservation ecologist, Professor Graham Kerley, from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in the Eastern Cape, further revealed that farmers’ targeting of predators can lead to an increase in their numbers, as he explained: ‘The jackal females on farms breed younger and have more offspring at a younger age as a compensatory response to lethal management. The same response is not happening on nature reserves.’
Incorrect perception about weekend farms and nature reserves
There is also a strong perception amongst sheep and goat farmers that nature reserves and game farms provide refuges for jackals. Another important part of the project was to compare the diet of jackal and caracal using GPS clusters and scat to determine what they eat and where.
‘The analysis of scats showed the jackals in my study that moved between ‘weekend farms’ where there was no livestock and farms with livestock where they tended to prey mostly on sheep and also goats, as well as wild animals such rodents. The jackals in the Anysberg, by comparison, preyed predominantly on wild animals, mostly rodents, berries and insects, even when they roamed outside of the reserve.’
On-farm jackal diet
Drouilly explains that on the farms, the research showed that sheep and to a lesser extent goats comprised 42% of the diet of jackals living on sheep farms, compared to the existing literature, which averages at 20%. She also found that 10% of the diet of on-farm jackal comprised small rodents and 11% invertebrates, insects like crickets, grasshoppers and snakes. The remainder of the diet mainly comprised wild ungulates, birds and fruits.
On-farm caracal diet: 14% rodents
The diet of the caracal living on livestock farms comprised 25% livestock, 14% rodents, 12% insects and 12% small ungulates like duikers and springbuck. The rest of the diet comprised birds and other mammals such as hares and hyraxes.
Nature reserve diets of jackal and caracal
In the Anysberg reserve the diet for the jackal was completely different: 41% of their diet comprised of fruit, notably from the gwarrie tree, 36% from different types of micromammals and 8% insects.
The diet of the caracal in reserve comprised 58% micromammals, almost 13% insects and 5% small ungulates.
‘We GPS-collared 4 jackal on the farms and 4 in the Anysberg and even though they roamed onto farms for short periods we never found any signs of sheep or goat in either their kill sites or their scats,’ she says.
‘We were unable to GPS-collar any caracal in the Anysberg but on the farms we collared 12 – from sub-adult (2 years) to old ones (7 years).
‘What is interesting is that my preliminary on-farm analysis of GPS-collared caracals indicates that some of them never ate any sheep while others were eating almost one a week. Those that did not eat sheep preyed on a range of wild animals, including dassies, rabbits, hares, rock monitor lizards, aardwolf, steenbok, duiker and birds.’
Predator movement related to permanent water
‘We will also use the GPS collar data to establish where and when the jackal and caracal drink,’ continues Drouilly. ‘There is a strong sense that the movement of these predators into the Karoo over the past couple of decades could have a lot to do with the establishment of permanent water in the form of dams, boreholes and water troughs.’
Historically, many species including jackals would have moved in and out of these areas in accordance with the Karoo’s unpredictable rainfall. The provision of permanent water may thus have changed the ranging patterns of many species.
The fascinating case of Leroy
A fascinating case study in the project was a young male jackal they named Leroy. ‘He was captured and collared on a sheep farm 30 km from Beaufort West in May 2014. He was just two years at the time. He dispersed over 200 km to Laingsburg and the Floriskraal Dam area to establish his own territory. In total, he moved for 2000 km over 5 months through numerous farms and survived.’
What is special about this project is that academics and farmers are coming together over key livelihood and biodiversity issues.
Has Africa’s growth run out of steam? This question has been on the minds of many investors, business leaders and policy makers as they observe increasing interest in key industries such as agriculture, energy and technology, with however limited access to financial resources. Companies (African and international) are looking for business-building opportunities and governments are seeking to accelerate growth by diversifying their economies.
The time has come for businesses and governments across the African continent to translate opportunities into tangible economic benefits. Although Africa’s economies have diversified to an extent, more is needed to overcome economic vulnerabilities. With the need for large companies to power the continent’s growth, the agriculture industry is certainly committed to play its part.
It was a blockbuster moment for African agriculture at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) as African leaders, businesses, and major development partners pledged more than US$30 billion dollars in investments to increase production, income and employment for smallholder farmers and local African agriculture businesses over the next ten years. The collective pledges at the 2016 AGRF are believed to represent the largest package of financial commitments to the African agricultural sector to date.
There’s a call for investors and financiers to join the “Seize the Moment” campaign and keep the momentum by turning these pledges into actual business. With a key focus on production of scale, technological advancement and access to market tabled at agricultural forums and government cabinets, the African Agri Council (AAC) has developed the African Agri Investment Indaba (AAII), the gateway to bankable agri projects in Africa, as a move towards seizing the moment.
While African agriculture has seen significant progress, there’s a greater need to emphasize on the impact of lack of financial resources in the agriculture industry to ensure a good return for our progress. Much more is needed for African countries to feed themselves and the world.
Do you want to gain access to investment and key partners that will take your company and agri projects to the next level? The African Agri Investment Indaba (AAII) 2016, taking place from the 28 – 30 November 2016 at the CTICC in Cape Town, is the meeting place for senior government officials, executives and entrepreneurs across the agri value chain. With over $1bn worth of projects already in our database and a growing investor participation competing for the best projects to grow their agri portfolio, AAII 2016 is the ideal deal-making forum.
For more information, please visit our website (www.agricouncil.org and www.agri-indaba.com).
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ABOUT THE AFRICAN AGRI COUNCIL
The African Agri Council is a network of global executives, decision makers and key stakeholders in Africa’s agricultural industry. It connects executives with their peers, policy makers, investors & financiers and leading global service providers across Africa and around the world.
Despite recent heavy rains, Ethiopia is still reeling from the worst drought to hit the country for half a century, particularly in the livestock-dependent regions of Oromia and Somali. Yet studies (pdf) suggest the country could have billions of cubic metres of untapped groundwater.
The story is the same across many parts of Africa, where farmers rely on erratic rains and depleted surface water while potentially vast groundwater reserves go ignored. Africa’s subterranean water amounts to an estimated 660,000 cubic kilometres (pdf), according to research from the British Geological Society – more than 100 times the continent’s annual renewable freshwater resources.
A new initiative co-led by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) is aiming to mobilise support for greater use of Africa’s under-used aquifers. Developed in the wake of targets set at the UN Sustainable Development Summit and the Paris climate talks last year, the goals of the Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice (GRIPP) include leveraging $1bn (£770m) of investments in sub-Saharan Africa for sustainable groundwater irrigation and improving groundwater access in the region for 4m rural households.
The idea is timely given widespread drought across southern and eastern Africa, yet it is not without controversy. Decades of overexploitation in north Africa(pdf), where groundwater is more abundant, have left many sedimentary aquifers dangerously depleted and in some cases degraded by saltwater intrusion. In Morocco, for example, the water table of the Saïss deep aquifer – one of north Africa’s largest aquifers – has fallen by an annual average of 3m over the past 20 years.
If the right policies and incentives are in place, however, groundwater can be exploited sustainably, argues Jeremy Bird, director general of IWMI.
Not only is groundwater more locally available and more reliable than rain in many parts of Africa, says Bird, it also serves as a better buffer to climate shocks: “It provides an opportunity for farmers to move one step up the ladder from very uncertain rain-fed irrigation, which is subject to the vagaries of climate, to supplementary irrigation, which offers them the ability to provide water when the crop really needs it.”
Improving Africa’s irrigation infrastructure has long been a goal of national policymakers and development agencies. The World Bank, for instance, is currently trying to mobilise international funders to help double irrigation levels in six countries in the drought-prone Sahel region.
The Sahel Irrigation Initiative Programme, with input from IWMI, is now considering the use of simple, farmer-managed pump bores alongside its focus on more expensive canals, reservoirs and other centrally-managed surface water infrastructure projects.
Vincent Casey, water, sanitation and hygiene senior adviser at WaterAid, however warns these simple pumps must be managed well: “Despite the advantages of convenience and affordability, the scale of pumping is very difficult to regulate which inevitably has economic consequences when groundwater is depleted.”
Africa may have considerable untapped aquifers, but not all are able to be easily and affordably accessed, says Casey. “Rural electrification has been limited, discounting the possibility of politically motivated energy subsidies that could make high powered pumping affordable to small scale farmers”. Capacity for groundwater withdrawal is also hampered by a lack of reliable hydro-geological data (Ethiopia hasmapped less than one quarter of its groundwater resources) and relevant expertise.
All these factors contribute to a patchy experience of groundwater projects to date. According to UPGro – a DFID-funded research programme examining groundwater in sub-Saharan Africa – nearly one third of such projects in sub-Saharan Africa fail within a few years of construction. The World Bank puts the estimated cost of groundwater project failures at more than $1.2bn (pdf) in lost investment over the last 20 years.
The main aim of GRIPP, which is focusing on projects not just in Africa but around the world, is to correct this trend through the promotion of research and knowledge-sharing around sustainable groundwater withdrawal practices and policies.
A vital step in this respect centres on farmer buy-in, says Ugandan water planning expert Callist Tindimugaya, vice president of the International Association of Hydrologists, a GRIPP partner. Because groundwater is an “invisible commons”, he argues, farmers struggle to know what comprises sustainable usage. Government provision of cheap power for water pumps and other price incentives to promote agricultural productivity can lead to overuse as well, he adds.
“Local initiatives to co-manage the resource are increasingly being explored as an important element in sustainable groundwater use as farmers realise their common interest in safeguarding the resource,” says Tindimugaya.
A case in point from another part of the world is in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, where farmer groups in over 700 communities agreed to collectively monitor groundwater levels, to plan their crop planting jointly and to adopt water-saving techniques. The project, which ran from 2003 to 2009, successfully reduced overexploitation (pdf) in the semi-arid state. Since the project ended, however, and without adequate governance systems in place, most of the farmer-led initiatives have ceased.
Policymakers might find incentives the best initial defence against unsustainable abstraction, says Bird. He cites a pilot project in the Chinese province of Shanxi, where farmers access set volumes of water from the state-run pumping system with pre-paid smartcards. If they use less than their quota of pumping time, they can trade it with other farmers.
“Our role is to identify the types of policies which might work in a particular situation, learn lessons from other areas and then assess the impacts of these policy decisions over time and see what the implications have been,” says Bird.
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TWENTY-four of South Africa’s leading farmers will arrive in Zambia on Tuesday to open discussions with Government on how they can move their investment into the country’s agricultural sector.
The farmers, who literally control South Africa’s agricultural economy, will meet Agriculture Minister, Mr. Given Lubinda and other senior Government officials on Wednesday afternoon, while the schedule for a meeting with President Edgar Lungu is yet to be finalised.
The farmers, who each have an annual turnover in excess of USD $6.5 million per year and have been organised under the auspices of Agri All Africa (AaA), are focusing to invest in areas of fresh produce which include sugar cane, wheat, maize, soya beans; livestock products ranging from cattle to sheep to goats and chickens.
The AaA client-farmers have identified, among other countries; Zambia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Namibia and Sudan as their immediate investment destinations.
Zambia has been pegged as number one priority because of its proximity to South Africa which made it easier for the farmers to drive their equipment into the country. Zambia has also been favoured because of her “friendliness in attracting foreign direct investment through the current policies”.
The decision to travel to Zambia was made last month at a meeting organised by AaA held in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
The meeting was convened to discuss acceleration of strengthening of management platforms to ensure the successful implementation of agriculture investments in prioritised destinations in Africa. The meeting also discussed current opportunities with the aim of aligning them to making a difference in agricultural development.
The participants who included client-farmers, AaA functionaries and board members, diplomatic representation, project managers and representatives from the agribusiness value chain looked at agricultural investment opportunities and how risk could be minimised in order to create assurance for the Africa option.
It was resolved that cooperation among the key elements and actors was essential to reach properly managed and implementable projects that would change the lives of people on the ground as well as allow commercial viability for all stakeholders.
The farmers are keen to move their investment into Zambia as soon as suitable land was secured.
AaA, which was born out of South Africa’s commercial agricultural sector aims to support the development of commercial agriculture in Africa, which it has identified as a key driver of the continent’s economic development.
Export value has increased and South Africa remains in a positive trade balance in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors. Furthermore, the value of agriculture, forestry and fisheries exports increased from R135bn in 2014 to R144bn in 2015, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Mr Senzeni Vokwana told Members of the National Assembly (NA) during the Budget Debate on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries recently in Parliament.
He said exports from these sectors into other African countries increased from R59bn to R62bn and into Asia from R34.5bn to R37.1bn. “The department will continue to focus on increasing intra-African trade and other global trade opportunities,” stressed Mr Vokwana.
According to Mr Vokwana, the current contribution of the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors towards the gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.7% is far below the capacity of the sector. “At the same time we should also note agriculture boosts the GDP directly by 2% and by another 12% from related manufacturing and processing,” he said.
Mr Vokwana also told NA MPs that his department has allocated R381m towards drought relief following the reprioritisation of the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme and Ilima/Letsema Funds. “Our focus is on the provision of animal feed, drilling and equipping of boreholes for smallholder and subsistence farmers. Working with the provincial departments of agriculture, we have drilled 224 boreholes and 78 have been successfully completed,” said Mr Vokwana.
He said the Land Bank has also made available an amount of R400m for concessional loans to commercial farmers affected by the drought. Through the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), according to Mr Vokwana, the Department of Agriculture has introduced a drought-tolerant maize seed. “In the financial year 2014-15 the ARC distributed 10 000 seed packs to smallholder farmers in various provinces.”
The total value of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ budget vote for 2016-17 is R6.333bn of which R3.292bn is ring-fenced for transfers of conditional and Parliamentary Grants. According to Mr Vokwana, the terms and conditions of the grants are that R1.6bn has been allocated to the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme, R491.4m to Ilima/Letsema and R69.3m to the Landcare Programme. In terms of Parliamentary Grants, R241.8m has been allocated to the Marine Living Resources Fund, R813m to the ARC, R35m to the National Agricultural Marketing Council and R5.935m to Ncera farms.
Speaking in the debate, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ms Machwene Semenya called on the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to refocus its efforts on supporting farmers, farm workers and farm dwellers in the post-drought period by means of a post-drought recovery plan that will ensure South Africa’s food security status both nationally and at the household level.
“The department should make concerted efforts in supporting subsistent and smallholder production as this is crucial in the revitalisation and transformation of our agricultural sector,” said Ms Semenya.
She urged the department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to refocus its activities on the high impact projects that will grow the economy, create jobs and ensure food security in line with the policy priorities outlined in the National Development Plan and in the 2016 State of the National Address of President Jacob Zuma.
She praised the ARC in its ground-breaking work on the development of the heartwater vaccine as well as the drought-tolerant seeds. “These developments will prove to be a game changer for South African producers and could greatly improve access to export market,” said Ms Semenya
Ms Annette Steyn, who is also the member of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and who also participated in the debate, reminded NA MPs about the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC’s) declaration of the SADC as a drought disaster area and its calling upon the national governments, international aid organisations and the private sector to assist in ensuring food security for 50 million people affected by the drought.
In contrast, according to Ms Steyn. the South African government failed to respond to such a call. “Thirty-four million South Africans were without water during February when we experienced record high temperatures. It is not believable that 56% of South Africans could be without water and that is not declared a national disaster,” said Ms Steyn.
She said according to the Red Meat Producers’ Organisation, it is estimated that time that approximately 65 000 animals had already died or had to be slaughtered because farmers could no longer afford to feed them. “No real assistance to farmers was given and the feed that was provided was totally inadequate to feed the animals,” said Ms Steyn.
Ms Steyn also highlighted the rising trend of farm murders. “This week again two farmers were murdered in Vryheid. It brings the total of farmers murdered in April alone to four. If we do not deal with farm murders we won’t have farmers to plant and we won’t have food in our country.”
As climate change brings unpredictable weather, droughts, floods, heat waves, cold spurts, and a general sense of chaos to the world of agriculture (and, well, the world, in general), one element is a little more mysterious.
Researchers from around the globe, led by Delphine Deryng, an environmental scientist at Columbia University, took a look at one curious element amongst all the disaster. Increased carbon dioxide levels are heavily associated with climate change, and it’s certainly no shocker that carbon dioxide levels are rising due to all kinds of human activities. But plants, we all learned in elementary school, actually love carbon dioxide: They take it in and expel oxygen, right? So does that mean, even if plants can’t save us, that at least they’ll be happy?
It turns out: sort of! An explanation of how this works, from the study’s release:
The concept is relatively simple; plants take in carbon to build their tissues, and if there is more carbon around, they have an easier time. Leaves take in air through tiny openings called stomata, but in the process the stomata lose water; with more carbon available, they don’t have to open up as much, and conserve moisture.
The study takes into consideration an excess of carbon dioxide in the air and tries to figure out how that would affect the planet’s four main crops: maize, wheat, soy, and rice. This turns out to be more about water than a simple more-carbon-dioxide-means-more-yields connection; the study finds that all four crops will take in more carbon dioxide and use water more efficiently by 2080, but not that we will necessarily see higher yields.
According to these calculations, the study predicts that wheat fields fed by rain, including those in North America, could defeat increased heat and water scarcity stress and actually produce more yields. Irrigation-fed wheat, as in China and India? Nope—still screwed. Corn yields will decrease everywhere, and the jury’s still out on rice and soybeans (the study found that some projections show an increase and some show a decrease).
This study is not, of course, saying that climate change will be good for crops. The inherent unpredictability of the change makes it exceedingly difficult to expect much of anything to go right, let alone to predict it. But it is demanding that we look at all possible effects of climate change, and take note that this is all much more complex than “the planet is heating up.”