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Immune to the Shocks of Climate Change: How Farmers are Creating Resilient Local Food Systems

The food system depends on a healthy environment, but poor agricultural practices are responsible for environmental degradation. Beekeepers continue to lose 30 percent of honeybee colonies during an average winter—likely due to pesticides and other agrochemicals. Soil degradation is occurring at staggering rates, with soils being depleted 10 to 40 times faster than they are being replenished. And up to 100,000 plant varieties are currently endangered worldwide.

The increase in food prices in 2008, Russian wildfires brought on by excessive heat and drought in 2010, and, most recently, the worst drought in more than 100 years in California—all are warning signs that farmers and farmers’ groups, global food producers, industry leaders, researchers, and scientists must address the planet’s food security in the face of weather volatility and climate change.

This week, Food Tank and The Lexicon of Sustainability are spotlighting farming and resilience through The Food List, a cross-media messaging campaign that

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provides the vital tools needed for fixing the food system.

Farmers depend on just a handful of crop varieties: according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), approximately half of farmland—more than 60 million hectares, or 150 million acres—in the U.S. is planted with corn or soy. This lack of diversity limits farmers’ ability to adapt to varying weather patterns and climate change.

“The question is not whether systems this brittle will break down, but when and how, and whether when they do, we’ll be prepared to treat the whole idea of sustainability as something more than a nice word,” wrote food author and activist Michael Pollan.

A more resilient agricultural system is needed, especially in the face of climate change. “With 80 million more mouths to feed each year and with increasing demand for grain-intensive livestock products, the rise in temperature only adds to the stress. If we continue with business as usual on the climate front, it is only a matter of time before what we [saw] in Russia becomes commonplace,” said Lester Brown, U.S. environmental analyst, founder of the Worldwatch Institute, and founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute.

Family farmers and food revolutionaries are working to create this paradigm shift by restoring ecological resilience in their local communities. Many farmers are diversifying their cropping systems and working together on projects to preserve biodiversity in fields and on plates.

According to Dr. Bianca Moebius-Clune, Soil Health Division director for the U.S. National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), farmers are improving soil’s “ability to take in and hold ‘water in the bank.’ They’re even creating wildlife and pollinator habitat—all while decreasing risks from extreme weather and harvesting better profits and often better yields.”

Here’s how family farmers, food heroes, and organizations around the world are working to create resilient local food systems that are immune to the shocks of climate change and ecological disturbance.

Adapt-N is an interactive tool developed by researchers at Cornell University, designed to help corn growers reduce nitrogen applications based on site-specific recommendations. The website is part of a suite of decision-support tools from Cornell to help farmers mitigate and adapt to climate change in the U.S.

DivSeek, an international partnership launched in January 2015, use big data to catalog the physical and genetic information held within international gene banks, and to make it available online. The initiative, involving 69 organizations from 30 countries, enhances the productivity and resilience of global crops by giving breeders and researchers access to information through an online portal.

In the Philippines, Dr. Wilson Cerbito, Assistant Regional Director of the Department of Agriculture, addressed the First Agriculture Summit on May 7, 2015, noting the Philippines is the third most vulnerable country in the world to climate change. The event outlined strategies for improving productivity of rice and root crops through technologies and practices that promote ecological resilience.

Full Belly Farm received the California Leopold Conservation Award for its land stewardship and conservation efforts. Judith Redmond, a manager of the farm, demonstrated resilience in the face of extreme drought by changing her crop choices, implementing drip irrigation, and reducing her reliance on groundwater. The creek that usually irrigates her crops ran completely dry last year, but Redmond was still able to water her land using micro-irrigation.

La Red de Guardianes de Semillas (The Network of Seed Guardians) is preserving rare plant varieties and culturally important seeds in Tumbaco, Ecuador. The community model for seed-saving fosters the exchange of cultural knowledge between small farmers, trains growers on permaculture techniques, and works to preserve biodiversity throughout Ecuador. The coupling of cultural heritage and biological heredity in something so small as a seed gets at the heart of the resilience concept: the more biologically and culturally varied a system, the more buffered it is against disturbance.

The Lexicon of Sustainability is spreading the word about agricultural resilience through information artworks and inventive media campaigns. Douglas Gayeton, multimedia artist and the organization’s founder, emphasizes that “there are farmers who believe in biodiversity instead of monoculture. Farmers who build soil fertility without depending on chemicals. Farmers who go beyond organic.” By defining terms such as true cost accounting, The Lexicon of Sustainability seeks to describe a vision for resilience through engaging stories.

Who do you know about that is creating a resilient local food system? We want to know! Share them with me at Danielle@foodtank.com.

Source: Food tank


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Agri-tech for Africa’s food security, development

Emerging agricultural technologies such as genetically-modified (GM) crops have a big role in addressing the perennial food shortages while promoting sustainable land use in developing countries, says an expert in international development.

During a lecture on leveraging technology for development organised by Aga Khan University in Kenya last month (2 March), Calestous Juma of the US-based Harvard Kennedy School of Government said emerging crop biotechnologies are vital for Africa’s future food security and development.

Juma, a professor of international development, said GM maize and sorghum have proved very important in addressing food insecurity, climate change related impacts in Africa and gave the example of South Africa, which is commercially producing GM maize and Burkina Faso that is fast adopting the technology.

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“Economic advancement in most developing countries has been [held] back by perennial food shortages occasioned by factors such as drought and climate change,” Juma noted. “Emerging technologies present an opportunity for the countries to become food-secure and free up resources for development.”

“The technologies ensures sustainable use of resources because less land will be needed to grow food to feed the same number of people and there would be less demand for water for irrigation since the varieties are drought-tolerant, and exert less pressure on the environment.”

Juma urged developing countries, especially those in Africa, to invest in technologies that would provide the basis of industrial take-off.

He added that although information and communication technologies serve as a foundation for industrial diversification, developing countries have failed to harness this knowledge for industrialisation.

Juma told SciDev.Net that political ideologies are also hampering Africa’s ability to harness the power of some of the emerging technologies for development. “For example, by joining the European Union bandwagon against transgenic crops, Africa has hobbled its own capabilities in genomics,” Juma said.

Margaret Karembu, director for the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications’ AfriCenter in Kenya, says GMOs present the best opportunity for African countries to create wealth, employment and reduce negative environmental impacts, thus contributing to the social welfare of the populace.

Karembu says, “Kenya’s capacity in research so far demonstrates that the sector can adequately find solutions to the challenges facing theagricultural sector using biotechnology.”

Source: Sci Dev Net


 

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Can Bt maize improve South African smallholder agriculture?

Maize is the major staple crop in many parts of Africa. Bt maize is the only commercialised genetically modified (GM) food crop in the continent and has been cultivated in South Africa since 2001 through public and private programmes.

Bt maize produces insecticidal proteins that provide resistance to the African maize stem borer (Busseola fusca) and the Chilo borer (Chilo partellus), two pests that cause significant yield losses.

There is intense debate about the role of genetically modified (GM) food crops in combatting low yields and food insecurity amongst smallholders in Africa. Bt maize is still the only commercialised GM food crop in Africa and thus provides an unique opportunity for an empirical evaluation on this matter.

Only African country to grow Bt maize

South Africa is the only country in Africa where farmers grow Bt maize. South African smallholders have been introduced to Bt maize through a number of private enterprise interventions and government programmes since 2001. Scientific publications on the effects of Bt maize on South African smallholders, from socioeconomic and ecological perspectives, are now starting to accumulate.

Bt maize produces insecticidal proteins that provide resistance to the African maize stem borer (Busseola fusca) and the Chilo borer (Chilo partellus) which can cause significant yield losses in low-input African smallholder systems. As maize is the dominant staple crop in Africa, and stem borer damage is a significant production problem to many African smallholders, Bt maize could have substantial positive impacts on the livelihoods and food security of smallholders.

In this commentary, we argue, however, that the fact that Bt maize was originally developed for use in large-scale capital intensive farming is still reflected in its functioning, which currently results in it being of limited use to smallholders. In addition, the regulatory context in which Bt maize was introduced in South Africa, and the lack of information provided to smallholders with the introduction of Bt maize, further reduce the current possibility of smallholders benefitting from it.

As an alternative, we see positive progress in public–private initiatives to develop new maize varieties, specifically for smallholders’ preferences and circumstances, which, we argue, show greater potential to improve food security in smallholders’ contexts.

Economic risk of adoption – much more expensive

The first aspect which negatively impacts on the possibility of Bt maize to be of benefit to smallholders is the economic risk that its adoption entails. To date, Bt maize seed has been supplied to smallholders through government-sponsored interventions – either for free or at greatly subsidised rates; smallholders therefore have not yet experienced the real costs of the seed.

Bt maize is currently sold at about double the price of popular non-GM hybrids and five times that of the price of popular open pollinated varieties (OPVs). Despite the high prices, some economic studies on Bt maize have reported that, by averaging over a number of years, smallholders can benefit from adopting Bt maize compared with planting conventional hybrids. However, stem borer pressure is highly variable between seasons; therefore during years and at sites that experience low insect pressure, the economic benefit of planting Bt maize can be negative.

Resource-constrained smallholders who do not have an economic buffer are not able to absorb losses in years for which the cost of Bt maize seed does not pay off.

Further reinforcing economic risk taking, currently commercialised Bt maize varieties are developed to give high yields under good agricultural conditions (sufficient and timely rain, fertilisation and good storage conditions).

Local hybrids outperform the GM ones

Smallholders often do not have the economy to provide such an optimal farm environment, and commonly farm on lands that are less suited for agriculture. As a result, planting currently available varieties of Bt maize entails the risk that input costs will not be covered within any one year. Indeed, studies on Bt maize in South Africa indicate that commercial varieties into which the Bt trait is introduced are outperformed by locally used non-GM hybrids and OPVs, which are better adapted to smallholders’ agro-ecologies, fluctuations in rainfall and suboptimal storage conditions.

Other countries, such as India, China and Argentina, which report higher adoption of Bt crops by smallholders, have less monopolistic seed markets and lower prices for GM seed than South Africa does, and, as a result of lower regulatory control on GM crops, the Bt traits have also to a greater extent been incorporated into locally suited varieties. It must also be noted, however, that the lower regulatory control of GM crops in these countries has simultaneously led to the marketing of seed of dubious quality, which negatively affects farmers.

Lack of transfer of information on Bt maize is found to be a key obstacle for successful adoption by smallholders. To successfully adopt Bt maize, farmers must be informed that it provides resistance to stem borers; and, for the sake of preserving the stem borer resistance, they need to be taught to plant a refuge of non-Bt maize next to their Bt crop. This refuge is provided by planting a specified area of non-Bt hybrids with the Bt crop, thereby providing feeding grounds for stem borers. In South Africa today, the main information channel on Bt crops to smallholders is through the private sector (seed companies and local seed retailers).

Jacobson and Myhr reported from the Eastern Cape Province that the information days on GM crops held by seed companies were insufficient for transferring all the necessary information and that the local seed retailers largely lacked the ability to transfer information on GM crops. We have recently witnessed a similar situation in the Limpopo Province where Bt and Roundup Ready maize is about to be rolled out to smallholders through a government-funded programme, while seed retailers and local government authorities lack sufficient information on GM crops.

Lack of information leads to faulty planting

Research shows that as a result of the current flaws in how information on Bt maize is transferred to smallholders, many smallholders planting Bt maize are not fully aware of what makes it different from other hybrid maize; and they often do not understand the purpose of refugia, nor comply with the demand to plant them. (To some extent, the lack of compliance with refugia plantings also applies to large commercial South African farmers).

Regulations regarding Bt maize in South Africa also currently obstruct smallholders from fully benefitting. These regulations apply both to the patents for GM crops and the biosafety management practices that come with planting GM crops in South Africa. Both forms of regulation result in farmers not being allowed to recycle GM seed. While hybrid seed in general is unsuitable for recycling because of yield drop, resource-constrained smallholders frequently use the possibility of recycling seed to be able to plant in years for which the budget does not allow for the purchase of new seed.

In summary, current Bt maize varieties in South Africa are expensive, are not suited to planting in suboptimal agricultural environments and come with regulations that smallholders do not understand or with which they do not agree. Whilst some of these problems can be remedied, there are cheaper alternatives available that are more attuned both to smallholders’ agro-ecologies and to their farming practices.

The South African government is currently, through the Agricultural Research Council – Grain Crops Institute (ARC-GCI), promoting the development and certification of maize OPVs suited to smallholder conditions and practices. The ARC-GCI is working in collaboration with the International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center (CIMMYT), initially through the Southern African Drought and Low Soil Fertility Project, and now through a breeding programme called Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa. These initiatives are working closely with smallholders and have resulted in the registration of a number of stress-tolerant maize OPVs on the South African Variety List.

In addition to drought and low soil nitrogen tolerance, the varieties also possess such desirable traits as resistance to major maize diseases (e.g. turcicum leaf blight and grey leaf spot), superior tolerance to smallholders’ storage conditions, early maturation and suitability for home processing. These are features of maize that are repeatedly highlighted as important by smallholders in southern Africa.

As a consequence of the projected increase in moisture stress because of climate change, these varieties, and continued efforts to produce them, can also be expected to substantially contribute to food security in future. Smallholder farmers in the Limpopo Province have already adopted some of these varieties, and are currently growing and marketing certified seed of ZM 1421, ZM 1521 and ZM 1523. In the Eastern Cape Province, some of the OPVs showed very stable performance across different stress-prone environments and seasons, and produced yields that were not significantly different from hybrids.

Zero seed costs can be realised for some seasons, because of the option of recycling seed of OPVs without the yield penalty associated with recycling hybrids.

We argue that government money would be better spent on supporting further development and spread of these less costly stress-tolerant maize OPVs to smallholders which, we argue, have better prospects for increasing and stabilising smallholders’ maize yields in economically sustainable ways.

Source: Green Times 


 

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Five Lessons From The Frontlines Of Africa’s Green Revolution‎

By Agnes Kalibata

The end of 2014 brought the conclusion of the African Union’s Year of Agriculture and Food Security. But most Africans work in some aspect of agriculture, and for them, every year is dedicated to agriculture and food security.

As they head out into the field today, they are likely giving little thought to meetings underway in South Africa focused on energizing the AU’s Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP). But in many respects, these consultations may be as important to African farmers as the timely arrival of the rainy season. They have the potential to be game changing.

AU leaders have vowed to move quickly in 2015 to fulfill the promises enshrined in last year’s Malabo Declaration. That document reaffirmed the commitment of AU member states to allot 10 percent of national budgets to agriculture, double productivity on African farms, and cut post-harvest losses in half.

For the last eight years, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has been seeking out public and private sector partners committed to triggering a uniquely African Green Revolution, one that revolves around the smallholder farmers who produce the majority of what Africans eat. As AU leaders sit down to determine how they and partners can achieve their goals, we wanted to share a few of the lessons we have learned in places like Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Malawi, where many are now embracing the potential of agriculture to anchor a new era of sustainable and equitable economic growth.

  1. Double down on creating the conditions for smallholder farmers to adopt new inputs and practices through raising awareness and access to finance.The only way to sustainably and inclusively raise agricultural productivity is to ensure farmers are aware of the potential of new seeds, fertilizers, and basic agricultural practices that can more than double their yields. AGRA’s partners in national research systems have developed nearly 500 locally-adapted crop varieties that are just as competitive as anywhere in the world. Our partners and private equity firms, like INJARO and PEARL, have helped launch 90 seed companies that collectively constitute the largest producer of certified seeds in sub-Saharan Africa, and 80 fertilizer companies that can help blend, distribute, and sell fertilizers to smallholder farmers through market-led solutions such as local agro-dealerships. Adoption of these new productivity-enhancing solutions at scale could trigger an agricultural transformation in just two planting seasons; but without it, we will hardly get started, and we know adoption rates remains lower than anywhere in the world. The agriculture community must rally around organizations that are doing demonstrations with farmers to raise awareness, as well as group like Baba Ngona in Nigeria and MyAgro in Mali that have found models to reach smallholder farmers with a range of services, including inputs extension and financial services.
  2. Think outside the bank to consider new ways to deliver financing to farmers.

    There are multiple opportunities to go beyond brick-and-mortar banks to help deliver financing that is still in short supply for smallholder farmers. For example, M-Pesa is reaching out to farmers with its popular mobile phone banking services. Microfinance institutions are partnering with commercial banks to provide new streams of affordable capital for agriculture ventures. And the MasterCard Foundation recently launched a campaign to expand financial services to rural areas of Africa through AGRA and other partners.

  3. Develop structured and efficient grain markets that are accessible for smallholder farmers.

    As farmers produce more, they increasingly need access to markets for their goods. There are efforts underway in several countries to establish innovative but simple services that deliver new commercial opportunities to smallholder farmers. For example, newly established warehouse receipt systems in Ghana and Kenya are providing safe and secure facilities to store grain while farmers negotiate with potential buyers. National and regional commodity exchanges are needed to attract more buyers for this produce. One potential model is being developed by African Exchange Holdings (AFEX). It’s a new partnership working to combine warehouse storage options with commodity exchanges to serve smallholder farmers in the East African Community.

  4. Support efforts to match smallholder farmers with large-scale buyers.Smallholder farmers working land holdings that typically average only a few hectares or less can seem like a poor match for large buyers. Yet, over the last few years, farmer organizations in Ghana, Mali, Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, and Malawi have established aggregation centers where growers can pool their harvests to meet the demands of large institutional buyers, like the World Food Program. The WFP in some countries has demonstrated that often a market is the missing incentives. In West Africa, a major rice miller and a large brewery have both seamlessly integrated smallholders into their network of suppliers.‎ GrowAfrica and the New Alliance initiative were set up to catalyze agriculture growth through private sector efforts and present a huge opportunity.
  5. Support women in agriculture to reap a large dividend.‎Most smallholder farmers and many new agribusiness leaders are women, and they have a significant role to play in Africa’s agriculture. In the Year of Women in Agriculture, this will be front of mind already for the AU and its partners, but we must put women first rather than include them as an afterthought.

    Priority actions include developing and promoting improved seeds that take into account women’s preferred characteristics such as taste and cooking time; giving women farmers small trial packs of improved seeds and recommended fertilizer blends; and targeting increased inclusion by women farmers in producer groups to enhance their access to production finance and profitable markets. We need more support for groups that are putting women first in their development of solutions, as well as for others like the African Enterprise Challenge Fund that are putting in place targeted finance for women in agribusiness.

Decades of neglect of African agriculture has left crop yields faltering, soils ailing, and markets poorly developed. We are still a long way from overcoming these challenges, but there is a sense that the tide is turning, and the current agriculture landscape has institutions like AGRA, AFAP, GrowAfrica, and others, whose sole mission is to build on the technology base of others in CGIAR, IFDC, and private sector to ensure sufficient capacity for an African agricultural transformation.

Recently,‎ Bill & Melinda Gates said they were confident that by 2030, Africa will be food secure. There is ample evidence today that if AU officials move aggressively with the investments they have promised, our resourceful farmers and agribusiness can make that prediction come true.

Agnes Kalibata is the President of the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and former Rwandan Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources.

Source: AFK Insider


 

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Green Capital: The City of Tshwane’s Green Economy Strategic Framework

GBJ 10 (2014)

By Alistair Schorn

As South Africa’s capital city, the City of Tshwane has recognised and embraced its responsibility to play a leading role in the transition of the county’s major cities and metropolitan areas to low-carbon, climate- resilient and resource-efficient models of development. This is clearly demonstrated in the development of the City’s Green Economy Strategic Framework, and its alignment with the City of Tshwane Vision 2055.

As with any initiative at the level of local government this framework was developed in alignment with the national economic development context. In this regard, the South African government has for a number of years recognised the green economy as a significant catalyst for employment creation, and socially equitable and environmentally responsible economic development. More specifically, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs states that the green economy refers in particular to two interlinked developmental outcomes for the South African economy, namely:

  • Growth in economic activity (leading investment, employment and competitiveness) in identified green industry sectors;
  • An overall shift in economic activity towards cleaner industries and sectors that have a low environmental impact compared to their socio-economic impact.

In line with these imperatives, the government has implemented a number of policy measures which aim to promote a transition to a green economy. These include the National Strategy for Sustainable Development, the Industrial Policy Action Plan, the New Growth Path, the Green Economy Accord and most recently, the National Development Plan that was released in 2012.

In the context of these national policy measures, strategies and plans, the implementation of South Africa’s green economy transition has been to the level of a significant degree decentralised to provincial and local government level. As a result, the City of Tshwane has identified a requirement to develop a city-specific Green Economy Strategic Framework, which reinforces national policy and provincial policy in this area.

What is a green economy and how can we get there?

In developing the Green Economy Strategic Framework for Tshwane, the City’s government has adopted the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) definition of a green economy, namely “one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities”

From the City’s perspective, therefore, the essence of a green economy lies in the following:

  • Improved human well-being;
  • Improved social equity;
  • Reduced environmental risks and ecological scarcities.

It is therefore imperative that a green economy transition can de-couple economic development from resource consumption and environmental impacts, and enable inclusive growth through a more equal distribution of wealth and access to ecological goods and services such as clean air and water.

It should also enable improved human health and well-being, through enhancing the quality and quantity of these goods and services, as well as the quantity and quality of public infrastructure and services such as transportation, education and civil services.

If implemented effectively, a green economy can offer a new economic path to sustainable development, in which the spheres of technology, economy, society and ecology are embedded in each other and are underpinned by systems of good governance.

Sustainable development and the green economy (adapted from the National Strategy for Sustainable Development).

This understanding of a green economy provides the broader context for the development of the City of Tshwane’s Strategic Framework.

The successful implementation of this Framework, and the resulting transition to a green economy, will require that the City makes best use of its inherent competitive advantages, to develop a highly appropriate, resource-efficient, low-carbon and inclusive programme.

The City of Tshwane

Tshwane is of course located in the north of Gauteng, and comprises over one-third of the province’s area. It has a population of 2, 92 million and a population density of 4 634 people per km2.

Tshwane exhibits a diversity of land uses, including residential (rural and urban), agricultural, natural open, industrial and commercial. Much of Tshwane is currently urbanised, although significant potential exists for agricultural production in less urbanised regions. Over the past several decades, Tshwane has experienced rapid economic growth and development, resulting in significant urban sprawl, which presents a growing challenge in terms of basic services, infrastructure and housing.

One of the objectives of the Strategic Framework is of new and existing projects and programmes to be included in the City of Tshwane’s Integrated Development Plan (IDP) in the next planning cycle. The IDP for 2011–2016 has made significant improvements in livelihoods by addressing service backlogs and poverty through improving the availability and universal accessibility of essential public services (such as housing, water, sanitation, education and health care). The next IDP will therefore need to continue with service delivery roll-out, while at the same time focusing on the development of integrated solutions that reduce resource consumption and the generation of pollution and waste, while opening up new opportunities for green jobs and green economic growth.

The Strategic Framework will help to inform the City of Tshwane’s medium to long-term green economy objectives. It also forms part of the Tshwane 2055 initiative, which is a long-term strategy for improving the quality of living across the metropolitan area, revitalising the city, boosting economic development and attracting investment. It aims to articulate the City of Tshwane’s vision, game-changing interventions, indicators and outcomes.

In this regard, Tshwane 2055 has the following six identified outcomes:

  • A resilient and resource-efficient city;
  • A growing economy that is inclusive, diversified and competitive;
  • Quality infrastructure development that supports liveable communities;
  • An equitable city that supports happiness, social cohesion, safety and healthy citizens;
  • An African capital city that promotes excellence and innovative governance solutions;
  • An activist citizenry that is engaging, aware of their rights and present themselves as partners in tackling societal challenges.

The Tshwane Green Economy Strategic Framework is aimed at addressing primarily the first of these objectives, namely the development of a resilient and resource-efficient city. It will also contribute to achievement of the second objective, particularly in the area of economic inclusivity.

The Tshwane Green Economy Strategic Framework

The development process for the Framework included extensive internal consultation with relevant City officials, and significant support and participation were received from local UNEP representatives. Based upon this process, the principal drivers of the green economy were identified as a response to the growing economic and environmental crises that demand a new green economic model for the following:

  • Resource efficiency: the efficient use of natural resources to reduce the generation of waste and pollutants;
  • Low-carbon development: the use of innovation and increased investment in low-carbon technologies and solutions; and
  • Inclusive growth: the creation of green jobs and the greening of service delivery to ensure more equitable and inclusive growth with a focus on the poor.

It was decided that the focus areas or themes of the Strategic Framework should be action-based and aligned with existing green economy initiatives and strategies. These themes were accordingly finalised in March 2013, and were divided into two principal categories or clusters, namely mitigation and adaptation.Within each of these themes, the status quo and challenges were described to give context and perspective. Known challenges and barriers to developing the City’s green economy were used to formulate aspirations, objectives and appropriate actions for each theme.

These were incorporated into an initial draft of the Strategic Framework that was reviewed and finalised by the City of Tshwane’s Sustainability Office.

Thematic action areas

Under each of the mitigation and adaptation clusters, the Framework identifies the following specific thematic action areas, as follows:

1. Transitioning to a low-carbon city (mitigation)

  • Pollution and waste management – reduction and effective management of waste streams, including solid waste, wastewater and air pollution;
  • Integrated water resource management – coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources;
  • Green buildings and built environment – the development of a green built environment in the City, including spatial planning and public service infrastructure, with due consideration of national initiatives in this area;
  • Sustainable transport and improved mobility – improved efficiency and sustainability in transport systems and infrastructure, and the creation of an enabling environment for green transport initiatives;
  • Sustainable energy – including initiatives, in line with various national policies and programmes in the field.

2. Building a resilient and resource-efficient city (adaptation)

  • Maintenance and provision of ecosystem goods and services – protection and enhancement of ecosystem goods and services, with due consideration of ecological limits and rates of replenishment;
  • Sustainable agriculture and food security – creation of sustainable food supply systems which maintain and enhance the ecological integrity of land and other natural resources;
  • Sustainable communities (health and social development) – promotion of a vibrant citizenry and a healthy, skilled workforce that contributes to improved wellbeing and social cohesion.

For each of these themes, a set of overall aspirations, strategic objectives and appropriate actions were developed for the Framework.

Specific mitigation actions include the following: reducing emissions from buildings; improving mobility and providing low-carbon mass transport options; reducing the generation of waste and encouraging product re-use, recycling and material recovery; promoting integrated planning and land use; improving energy efficiency and developing renewable energy supply options; and encouraging the efficient use and management of water and other natural resources.

The adaptation actions include: main- streaming environmental priorities and carrying out biodiversity assessments to inform development plans; supporting and expanding government public works programmes to incorporate payment for an ecosystem services approach, enhancing the skills and knowledge in agro-ecology, enhancing local urban and peri-urban food production for increased food security; and providing services and facilities that enable a safe and healthy environment while enhancing opportunities for improved connectivity and social cohesion and human wellbeing.

A number of specific methods of implementation were identified to promote the establishment of a green economy in the City, including the following:

  • Investing strategically in green innovation and technology;
  • Defining a new economic base for a green economy; and
  • Developing partnerships between government, business, labour and civil society.

In terms of these implementation methods, the Framework identifies the financial constraints under which the City (and in fact all municipalities) operate, as a potential inhibitor of transition to a green economy, and it acknowledges the necessity for effective public-private partnerships to overcome this obstacle.

Furthermore, the Framework refers to the possible use of municipal fiscal policy, in the form of both incentives and disincentives, as an effective method of catalysing the growth of a green economy in the city.

A final element of the Framework, included as an Appendix, outlines the City’s targets for various measures and initiatives for a green economy as derived from national and provincial targets in these areas.

These include areas such as the installation of solar water heaters, the creation of green jobs, public sector investment in green economy sectors such as renewable energy and sustainable transportation, energy efficiency targets, waste reduction targets and the implementation of appropriate sustainability standards such as those for green buildings.

The City of Tshwane’s transition to a green economy will require a fundamental change in the established economic system, from one based on increasing exploitation of natural resources to fulfil the growing demands for material consumption, to one that can ensure sustainable and equitable growth within the ecological limits of Tshwane and the region.

Achieving this shift will require effective integrated planning, robust policy signals, good governance and high levels of accountability on the part of the City’s management. It will also require investment in new skills, research in innovation and green technologies, and a new mindset for doing business.

The Green Economy Strategic Framework provides a means to achieve these objectives, by outlining the suite of strategies and actions that are required to facilitate the City’s transition to a green economy and a sustainable development path.

Food – Water – Life

Our farmers, who balance in their green fingers the delicate scales of food security and social equity, also face the commercial pressure of international
markets and shifts in consumption patterns. Yet South Africa’s commercial agriculture sector is increasingly viewed by upstream and downstream industries. The government especially views the sector as an overly  thirsty and at times thrifty water user.

The term ‘farm water’ refers to water used to irrigate crops, leach harmful salts from fields, and to manage the environment. Water Bombs For Farmers
Recently, agriculture’s 62% guaranteed supply of our country’s surface water was fingered personally by the Environment and Water Affairs Ministry for nipping mining and industry growth in the bud, with a sweeping wag at using excess water as a private sector trading stock.

The National Water Policy Review, now in circulation, aims to address legislative gaps in the sector, and arguably seeks nationalisation of temporary and permanent water trading of any nature. With 98% of this “basic human right” resource allocated – and a huge rural access backlog, the logic is clear.

Interestingly, however, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) cites a greater reliance on farmer-owned and -operated irrigation among its key water-saving measures.

Food Security
Loss of water from a crop field during the growing season results primarily from evaporation from the soil surface, and transpiration through the plant leaves. These processes are termed “evapotranspiration” and commonly abbreviated “ET”

Water – Tricky Flow Models

While the world population grew from 2.5 billion in 1950 to 7 billion, the irrigated area doubled and water withdrawals tripled. When scarce water is under human control via irrigation systems, and irrigation gets a bad rap, it’s a sign to investigate the problems and the potential for improved efficiency. To review irrigation practices, farmers must test cost and time overruns; poor management; the non-realization of full, planned benefits; adverse environmental
and health impacts; and the exacerbation of inequities in the existing social and economic distribution of assets.

Food Security
Top: Variation of the temperature stress coefficient (Ks) for cold (left) and heat stresses (right) on pollination Above: Schematic representation of the crop response to water stress, as simulated by AquaCrop, with indication (dotted arrows) of the processes (a to e) affected by water stress (adjusted from Raes et al., 2009).

Globally since the mid-70s, ballooning construction costs, falling wheat and rice prices, the environmental and social cost revolution and poor irrigation performance at farm level have combined to shrink the necessary growth in the coverage of irrigated land. Just as ageing irrigation projects have produced gradually declining yields, modernization of existing irrigation projects is becoming increasingly expensive. Old projects that were designed for mnocropping
also need to be redesigned to permit crop diversity, increase yields, conserve water and reduce environmental hazards.

Modernization involves canal lining, improved hydraulic control structures, better land development and appropriate irrigation techniques. Leading The Farm Horse To Water Economic water scarcity means a lack of infrastructure, with people often having to fetch water from rivers for domestic and agricultural use.

The resulting over-development of hydraulic infrastructure for irrigation often leads to environmental degradation and declining groundwater. Around 1.3-million hectares of South African farmland is under irrigation. The ideal is to apply the right amount of water, at the correct application rate and uniformly to a field, at the right time, with the least amount of non-beneficial water consumption (losses), and as economically as possible, says the Agricultural Research Council. The agriculture sector faces a complex challenge: producing more food of better quality while using less water per unit of output; providing rural peoplem with resources and opportunities to live a healthy and productive life; applying clean technologies that ensure environmental sustainability; and contributing in productively to the economy.

Fluid Institutional Guides

With agriculture in constant evolution, irrigation needs to adapt to new, more stringent requirements. The supply of water within large irrigated systems needs to be much more reliable and flexible than in the past. Sound simple? The South African Framework for Improved Efficiency of Irrigation Water Use views water-management infrastructure from four vantage points: the water source, bulk conveyance system, irrigation scheme and irrigation farm.

The South African Irrigation Institute represents 450 designers, engineers, soil scientists, crop experts, economists and irrigation farmers, as well as 50 manufacturers and suppliers of irrigation equipment, applying their minds to this task. The FAO’s approach to irrigation and drainage, widely used today, is based on the relative yield loss of any crop, whether it be either herbaceous or woody species, to the relative reduction of water consumption, i.e. evapotranspiration, specific for any given crop and condition. Responding to the evolutionary idea of synthetic water production needs over the last three decades, the FAO created a unique crop simulation model, called AquaCrop.

This simulation model calculates the crop biomass, based on the amount of water transpired, and the crop yield as the proportion of biomass that goes
into the harvestable parts.

Cannot Control What Can’t Be Measured

South African commercial farmers, and their institutional guides, would do well to invest more time and money into water measuring equipment. This will allow them to correctly measure and protect the precious water resources allocated to them, while at the same time reducing associated electricity costs. By combining the FAO’s AquaCrop model with a trusty water metering system, farmers can better motivate the retention of their water allocations to water authorities. In turn, water authorities will have more reliable data to base their vital decisions on.

The financial returns of an irrigator are strongly correlated with the volume and pattern of irrigation water application – saving water and electricity costs, says the Water Research Commission (WRC). The Department of Water Affairs (DWA) will also publish new regulations for river, irrigation scheme and
farm water measurement, ensuring stricter enforcement of water metering.

Whereto From Here

To assist farmers and policy-makers, the WRC published a report for sustainable on-farm and on-scheme irrigation water measurement with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries, guiding the process to effectively implement water measurement at river, irrigation scheme and
farm level in South Africa.

 

South Africa’s North West: An opportunity for investors

United World had the pleasure of catching up with the CEO of North West Development Corporation to discuss advancements in the business environment in North West and the province’s plan to industrialise and attract key investors to the province.

There is a lot of regional competition in South Africa and Africa in general to attract investors. What are the sectors that are flourishing here in North West and can you tell us about the opportunities in those sectors?

The biggest sector in the North West province is mining, it occupies a large percentage of the GDP input and is followed by agriculture, tourism and manufacturing to a certain degree and the services industry broadly speaking.

Now, in mining, as far as we are concerned, we are leading as a province but we don’t think we are competitive enough as long as we are still exporting primary goods. We want to move a little bit further to get into the beneficiation of the minerals that we have. If you look at countries like America and other developed countries, we would want to work with these kinds of companies, given their level of development as far as technology is concerned. Beneficiation would require more technology and skill, which are the things we are still lacking in the province, so we need to build the skills base and the utilization of advanced technology to make sure we are competitive as a province.

I must indicate that the Premier’s view is that we must focus on agriculture, culture and tourism. For obvious reasons, as far as tourism is concerned, we have been, as a province, a leading attraction given golf course destinations such as Sun City and the Lost City. It has been one of the most attractive destinations for a number of years. We will be hosting the Nedbank Golf Challenge with a number of key players in the world, both from the US PGA and the European PGA attending. So, most of the people come around this time for that but, generally, Asian markets dominate the visits to Sun City and recently we have been attracting more visitors from Africa.

But beyond that, North West is amongst the leading provinces when it comes to game or safari, as people say; if you want safari you will find it in the North West province. We are second or third to Kruger National Park, we have Pilanesberg, we have the Madikwe Game Resort, but we are developing more and more tourism for that. Also, the world yacht competition is held in the North West Province in an area called Bloemhof Dam. Every year we have the world competition coming down to our shores.

On the cultural side the idea is to develop what we want to call cultural tourism, to make sure there are cultural products that people can learn more about. When I was growing up the most famous film from Africa was one called The Gods must be crazy. If you watch that film all that you see is the African that is still wearing skins and a really bad stereotype of Africa. It is not our worry that we are showing the international community we are still wearing skins, what is key is the exposure that we are making to the international community about what our heritage is, the cultural heritage of South Africa.

Remember, the pride of South Africa is this diversified culture of Africans and Afrikaners and so on. So you will find a diversity of cultural orientation in South Africa, and North West is a host of a number of these cultures, you will find them in terms of different activities that are happening and this is what we want to promote.

On the agricultural side, we are predominately a rural economy. What I mean by rural economy is that you have vast arable lands that are not utilized the way they are supposed to. Of course, we still have challenges of rain here and there but given the new technologies to bring about irrigation systems and so on we believe that land can be better utilized in our province. We are the leading producers of maize, we are the leading producers of sunflowers and there are quite a number of other fruits that you can find in the North West province. We simply want to enhance this capacity.

But this challenge of vast land is also an opportunity, because gradually there are a lot of economic development activities that are happening, in Johannesburg, for instance, and which will probably expand to other places, but in this province we want to be the home for food security, we want to secure food for people, we want to bring back the importance of agriculture so far as production is concerned.

So these are the key issues you will find in the North West as far as the economy is concerned. We still boast that we have a university with two campuses and is ranked amongst the top five in the country. So we think that there could be a good relationship between the university and the economic activities to make sure that we increase our skills base.

One of the first considerations of an enterprise thinking of coming into South Africa is not only the cost of doing business but also the business environment and infrastructure they are going to find here. How would you rate the infrastructure in the North West?

Comparatively speaking we are up there with the best, but we still have some difficulties. For instance, with regard to roads; the roads in the North West province have deteriorated due to the heavy rains we have experienced and the replacement, resealing and maintenance of roads has been slow. Of course, among other things, it is due to the limited resources we have. We have not as yet had high demand for electricity, for instance, the supply that we have in the North West province we consider to be adequate, for example, when there have been electricity shortages in the country we have never faced outages but by and large we are able to resolve our electricity problems.

We still have challenges in the case of water supply, there are certain parts of the North West where we don’t have adequate water. We are currently working on key economic infrastructure premises, for instance, industrial parks. The special economic zone is one of those but we are trying to establish as many industrial parks as possible. Currently we have premises that we lease out to small and medium firms and as far as costs are concerned we consider ourselves to be the lowest given where we are. And we can still provide more particularly, as the development corporation responsible for the allocation of factory space.

We have an airport at Mafikeng that was supposed to be highly functional by now, but there have been challenges in the past given the demand from the passengers. But we are currently working on this airport to become a cargo airport from where we are going to export.

One of the key issues you deal with here is bringing foreign investment into the North West. Can you tell us a little bit more about the services that your corporation can offer investors?

The first key element is that we as the corporation are promoting the entry model of joint ventures. It becomes easy, for instance, for companies from the outside to work together with companies that are already in South Africa, and such kinds of partnerships are key because you already exploit the experience of local companies, the knowledge of the terrain and the competition in the country. So we think it would be easier for international companies to come through joint ventures and we do facilitate that as a corporation.

If anybody comes and says they are starting from scratch we are going to be very excited. There are generic incentives that you get in South Africa provided by the department of trade and industry, including tax tariffs and so on. In the province, what we ensure is that if there were companies that need startup capital, for instance, or need local people to make a contribution, it becomes our role to make sure that we facilitate the process through our national industrial development corporation for people to be able to access equity funds or funds that are going to contribute to that.

We engage local municipalities, for instance, to make sure that rates and taxes for international companies are competitive. We had a few companies for which we have approached the municipality to negotiate rates and so the taxes are going to be affordable for those companies. And we also provide factory space, but if a company needs land to start we have a good relationship with our local traditional leaders here, in whose hands you will find most of the land, and we negotiate and facilitate the process for them to make land available.

These are the key attractive elements we provide as a province but we really utilize the national incentive schemes that are available.

Can you think of any examples of companies that have come here to invest?

In the main there are companies in the mining sector. Currently we have companies in the automotive sector that are supplying the OEMs, like Nissan, Volkswagen, Bosch and the Malaysian company, Pasdec. These are the companies that have been granted licenses to provide OEMs and they have been in the business for quite some time. We are working on creating a support center for them so that they are able to secure whatever assistance they need, in case of economic hardships they are able to access funding for companies in distress. We are also helping them with challenges like electricity and water in the area where they are operating. In the retail sector we also have some companies. We have a company, Choppies, from Botswana.

The economic development zone is a key project, how far advanced is it and what kind of availability is there?

We now have 147 hectares of land available with infrastructure, water and electricity already available. We have combined this zone with a factory space, which is about 47 hectares of land. These are factories that are already available for anybody who wants to start manufacturing. We have started now marketing the zone, on the 26th of this month we will be in Japan and on the 27th some Canadian companies will be arriving and we will talk to them about investment. There is a key company that has already showed interest, just like Fuji, which is a Chinese company. There is also a German company that has shown interest in manufacturing mining equipment in the area.

The zone is going to be dual in nature: heavy manufacturing as far as fuel cells are concerned, but on the other hand there will be mining suppliers. The zone is sitting within a radius of 18 kilometers in a reachable distance of about 4 mines that are leading producers, and that is why we are situated there. It is almost within a reachable distance to Pretoria and about 200 kilometers to O. R. Tambo International Airport.

Our view is that any company that is ready now, we will be ready to accept them. The DTI has worked out special incentives for economic zones that are different from the generic incentives in the rest of the country, especially incentives for the zones to be issued in due course by the Department of Trade and Industry. So we are ready to move, we have a project executive structure in place that can begin discussions with whoever. For instance, one of the leading companies that are helping us is Anglo American; in fact they spearheaded the installment of a project were fuel cells were used as energy supply for a village. And we are working on piloting another village in the North West province where we are going to demonstrate that fuel cells can actually become alternative sources of energy.

So the special economic zone project is going to move with momentum and immediately take off. Hopefully after our international marketing trips we will have secured a few of those people that will be interested to come and manufacture here different types of products that use fuel cells, be they portable or highly mechanized programs. And we will be happy to host them.

When you do talk to international investors what are the common misperceptions about Africa?

Often there are questions about labor issues. There are companies that believe the South African labor market is rigid and that the rigidity of the market is such that it poses high risks for them to be able to operate. Our answer all along has been that the issue of conflict in the economy between labor and market is not unique to South Africa, in fact, this conflict between employer and employees goes way back. What we see in South Africa is just a situation where the desire to strike a balance between making profits and sharing in the profit has not reached levels where the workers who are the contributors of profit, and the owners as contributors of capital, are reaching an equitable share.

The good thing is that this whole discussion is not happening outside the framework of government. The South African government has provided bargaining councils, it has provided a platform where workers and owners are able to negotiate issues of salaries. The concern is when sometimes these discussions get out of hand and there is violence and people abuse the system that has been put in place to ensure that these issues of salaries must be quickly resolved without having to cost the economy or costing businesses to lose money. So such platforms are within the framework of the South African government’s policies, so there is nothing unique about it as far as we are concerned.

Secondly, you come across people talking about crime and you come across certain reports that appear in the media and on TV and so on and our response is, as it would be in Mexico or elsewhere: we are a country that is not immune to having individuals with criminal minds. Criminal minds are all over the world, in South Africa you still find people who believe they can make a living through criminal activity. Of course on our side, we get solace from the fact that the type of police system we have put in place is supposed to help us make sure we bring the level of crime down. Recent statistics have shown that we were able to deal with violent crimes and it has also shown that crimes such as murder have gone down. So as much as it is a concern of investors, all we are saying is you can still find this elsewhere, but find comfort in the fact that we don’t leave it to be. I believe as a country we still have the most effective judicial system that is able to make sure that whoever is offended in the country finds justice.

Recently we have been seeing public reports from rating companies, the most notorious one is Moody’s that continuously rates South Africa down and down. So I started trying to look deeper and find why we are rated in this way, and one of the things I discovered is that we are rated against developed countries, so if we are rated against the United States or the United Kingdom we are obviously going to come out at the bottom. But if we were rated with other developing countries we believe we would be somewhere at the top. But South Africa doesn’t take these ratings for granted; they are an important indicator that shows certain things we must deal with.

We see much enthusiasm and excitement from those who happen to understand South Africa for the first time, when we introduce them and they would want to know more, they would want to come. Given the trend of the global economy now, Africa is beginning to become the promising economy and people want to exploit the advantages and they want to come first. And, as South Africa, we provide that base. If any country wants to register their brand now, let them come now, let the people get used to that brand, because when more and more people start coming down to Africa at that time they will be those that have already occupied the center stage and will be more competitive than the newcomers. So we are getting more and more interest coming forward.

If you were to describe the North West as a brand, what would be the characteristics you would associate the North West brand with?

We always say we are a trade and tourism destination. The people in the North West province are still conservative in terms of taste movement. If you go to Johannesburg or any other developed metropolitan area you will find that your product wouldn’t last for three days because there would be more products coming in, so the taste movement is very frequent, but in North West if you have established yourself, you have established yourself.

The province is not necessarily crime free but compared to other areas we still feel we have low levels of crime. And there is very good quality of life. You have heritage and a very rich culture. There is still a lot of open space and fresh air.

On a personal level what motivates you and drives you to work towards attracting investment for the province?

We have about 3.5 million people in the North West province. We have high levels of unemployment and a desire to develop young people, in terms of them going to school but at the same time to start making a living at early ages. Broadly speaking, development is the key and I measure development in three ways: there must be good life, people must have longer life expectancy and people must have good health to achieve that; and for them to be able to have income generating activities the literacy level must go up. These issues are the ones that makes you wake up early in the morning and come to work and say to investors: “Come down to the North West, because with you being here people are going to enjoy the benefit of trade.

And benefit of trade does not only come in money and returns, it also comes in terms of technology transfer and in terms of developing infrastructure. And once you have improving capital formation in the country, for me, I see the potential for savings to increase. Now, North West is limited in terms of this, but it will become a future hub: after London has saturated, after Moscow has saturated, Tokyo, Beijing, Johannesburg, where else do you go? North West is supposed the next destination for you to build cities, to bring about more industrial development and so on and so forth. When all of this happens I think our cost of developing people will be met.

Source: The World Folio