Agricultural Support Initiative

The residents of communal lands are likely to face increasing food insecurity in a hotter and potentially drier future associated with current climate change projections, particularly in the Sekhukhune and lowveld areas of the Olifants Catchment. It is also widely recognised that agro-ecological agricultural approaches offer substantive and tenable ways to build resilience to the predicted impacts of climate change.

In keeping with our systemic, social learning approaches, AWARD has arranged a number of projects under the banner of Resilience Support Initiatives (RSI) that aim to institutionalise resilience building in the region. Given food security concerns and the challenges facing small-scale farming, one such area of resilience support is our focus on agriculture and livelihoods. Here we hope to support agro-ecological practices and livelihoods diversification so as to build the resilience of small-scale farmers in the middle and lower catchment of the Olifants River to the impacts of climate change.

This is being done through a partnership grant with two NGOs: Ukuvuna and Mahlathini Development Foundation (www.mahlathini.org). Through the RSI these grantees will be supported not only to undertake their specialist work but also to include specific and evolving learning activities related to systemic understanding and climate change. The project will target some 320 farmers across sixteen communities to become catalysts for wider action within the middle and lower sections of the Olifants River Catchment MAP. Participant farmers are will use farmer experimentation methodologies to implement their own improved farm design and learn in an ongoing way about tenable adaptation strategies. They will engage in collective and collaborative efforts with other participants to share information, resources and learning, ease the workload of some of the activities, save jointly for larger infrastructural input requirements and promote the involvement of their broader communities in these actions.

The objective of the work is to provide support for increased adaptive capacity and resilience to the effects of climate change for households and small-scale commercial food production activities in select communities of the ORC through:

  • Improved soil and water conservation and agro-ecological practices;
  • Livelihood diversification and supplementation through alternative climate resistant production;
  • Increased community empowerment as a result of self-organisation and collective action.

Emphasis will be placed on methodologies and approaches for improved soil and water conservation strategies, livelihoods diversification (increased and diversified production of vegetables, fruit and field crops and integration of small livestock) and value adds (such as entrepreneurial opportunities and diversification of income options). Soil and water conservation and management practices should greatly increase the overall availability of water for productive purposes during the wet season and create options for extending the growing season.