Welcome to the first SmartAgri Barometer! It is with great excitement that we launch this quarterly newsletter which we hope will help to drive and energise the collaborative implementation of SmartAgri - the Western Cape agricultural sector’s response to climate change. When the SmartAgri Plan was launched in May 2016, little did we know how serious the extended drought would become. Climate change is suddenly very real, and this is adding greatly to the urgency in making rapid progress on implementation of the Plan.
While the Western Cape Government’s (WCG) Department of Agriculture (DoA) has been actively engaging with key departments and interest groups within the WCG and beyond (we report on these activities in this Barometer), every participant in this sector has a role to play. This could be on-farm, within businesses servicing agriculture, in universities and research institutions, or within NGOs and rural communities. We warmly invite you to find out how you can get involved and help to make agriculture resilient to the changing climate. Enjoy the read!
SMARTAGRI - PUTTING THE PLAN IN ACTION
The SmartAgri plan, launched in May 2016 (refer to Departmental Quarterly Magazine Agriprobe Vol 13 No 2, 2016 – also available in e-format on www.elsenburg.com) and with the vision “Leading the way to a climate-resilient agricultural future for the Western Cape with a coordinated sector plan”, has set the scene for focussed action and implementation in the agricultural sector. The plan has been widely acknowledged by the agricultural sector as one of the best plans developed for the sector. Furthermore, owing to its position as a highly vulnerable sector, agriculture is the first sector in the province to benefit from a sectoral climate change response framework and plan.
The plan presents the “road map” for the agricultural sector to travel towards a more productive and sustainable future, despite the uncertainties around specific climate projections. The detailed background to the plan, its four strategic focus areas, six priority projects, regional and commodity briefs and case studies, as well as proposed actions, are available on www.greenagri.org.za. in printable format.
Some immediate actions after the launch
After intensive stakeholder engagements the SmartAgri plan was developed, and has to be “taken back” to the sector with focussed and well-coordinated actions to enhance the resilience of our farmers and other stakeholders. In this regard the DoA will play a coordinating and catalytic role to give impetus to the implementation of the plan.
1) Drought Dialogue 2016
Shortly after launching SmartAgri, the 2015/2016 drought and heat wave led to extensive losses in the agricultural sector. DoA, in partnership with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEADP) – also a partner in developing the SmartAgri plan – hosted a provincial multi-stakeholder Drought Dialogue in June 2016 as part of the SmartAgri roll out to discuss the current drought, lessons learnt and ways to mitigate drought conditions in the future.
2) Appointing a SmartAgri coordinator
In order for the SmartAgri plan to be rolled out in a more effective way, Prof Stephanie Midgley, former project leader during the development of the SmartAgri plan, was appointed as a specialist advisor to DoA for a period of 12 months, commencing 1 September 2016. Since her appointment, Prof Midgley has assisted the department with presentations at various internal departmental events, commodity organisations, study groups, stakeholder organisations, municipalities, ......
3) Taking SmartAgri to municipalities
On 27 February 2017, an Extended Minister and Mayors Technical Forum (MINMAY TECH) took place in Stellenbosch. The meeting was organised by the Department of Local Government and was attended by the municipal managers of the 30 municipalities in the Western Cape, senior officials from the Department of Local Government and selected Heads of Departments from the Western Cape Government.
4) Strengthening the partnership with GreenCape
For the last 7 years, GreenCape has been working closely with DoA to try and understand the impact of water shortages, spiralling energy costs and carbon trade barriers to the sector, to name but a few. GreenCape has over the last few years assist farmers and other agricultural stakeholders in the Western Cape understand what they can do – also on farm – to enable their continued and enhanced competitiveness and climate resilience.
The SmartAgri Plan includes six Priority Projects (PP) that have been chosen to catalyse the early adoption of important climate change responses with high impact. The six Priority Projects were identified through extensive engagement with stakeholders and evaluation of each response option according to its scientific, agricultural and socio-economic merits. The DoA has started a series of internal workshops with the objective of identifying or establishing the structures (e.g. existing Directorate, or Community of Practice) which can “adopt” each PP and ensure that it is rolled out.
The following progress has been made with the priority projects:
PP1: Conservation Agri...
PP4: Energy efficiency....
PP6: An integrated..
PP1: Conservation Agriculture (CA) for all commodities and farming systems
The Conservation Agriculture (CA) Priority Project aims to build on existing programmes aimed at transitioning from conventional production systems to conservation agriculture across the Western Cape Province. A meeting was convened with DoA staff involved with Conservation Agriculture to discuss the steps needed to achieve this PP. The outcome was an agreement to establish a Conservation Agriculture Community of Practice (CACoP), and the draft Terms of Reference for the CACoP were drafted. The group will consist of member institutions and individuals that have a vested interest, personal or professional knowledge and/or experience directly or indirectly related to the sustainable development and transformation of Conservation Agriculture. A Core Team will coordinate the CACoP and provide on-going direction, support, feedback and evaluation to the DoA. The department also approved two new climate-smart research projects, i.e. the “Rehabilitation of abandoned potato circles in the Sandveld area of the West Coast” and “Quantifying between and within animal components of variation in common indicators of heat stress in Western Cape resource flocks”.
For more information on the Conservation Agricultural Western Cape (CAWC) Association and get access to their newsletters,
PP4: Energy efficiency and renewable energy case studies to inspire the transition to low-carbon agriculture
This Priority Project seeks to stimulate efforts to reduce demand, increase energy-use efficiency, and transition to cleaner, renewable forms of energy such as wind, solar, hydropower and biomass, by providing better access to trustworthy information and professional service providers. The WCG Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDAT) hosts the Energy Security Game Changer. With its goal “To minimise the impact of power shortages and load shedding on the economy and employment over the next 5 years, and put the region on a path to a lower carbon, more efficient, energy secure future”, this Game Changer is well positioned to assist with the implementation of SmartAgri PP4. Assistance will also be provided by GreenCape, a sector development agency, to work with business, government and academia to support the growth of the green economy in the Western Cape. The DoA has held initial meetings with, and will continue to work closely with both groups, to ensure that PP4 gains momentum. The first step was the completion of four Case Studies on renewable energy options, which will be published and disseminated
PP6: An integrated knowledge system for climate smart agricultural extension
This Priority Project aims to empower the agricultural (and related conservation) extension and advisory system to become the first port of call for farmers requiring relevant information and decision-support on climate-smart agricultural practices and technologies. The SmartAgri team had a productive first meeting with senior staff of the DoA’s Programme Farmer Support and Development (FSD), including all District Managers, to introduce PP6. The discussion focused on the proposed activities, linkages with current and planned activities and projects of the FSD Extension and Advisory Services, and how to roll out this Project. In addition, the upcoming Departmental Extension Symposium 2017 with the theme ‘Appropriate Pluralistic Extension Messages for Adaptation to Climate Change’ was discussed, including possible sub-themes. This Symposium will provide an excellent opportunity to drive the uptake of climate change adaptation and mitigation within agricultural extension in the DoA to the benefit of all our farmers.
SMARTAGRI PRESENTED AT AFAAS AFRICA EXTENSION WEEK IN DURBAN
Officials of DoA are part of the organising committee and will also deliver climate smart agriculture presentations at the DAFF (Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries), AFAAS (African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services) and SASAE (SA Society for Agricultural Extension) 2017 Conference at the AFAAS Africa Extension Week to be held in the week of the 29th of October 2017 to the 3rd of November 2017 in Durban. The theme of the Conference is “Scaling up climate smart agriculture: integrating youth, women, and the digital revolution”. The SmartAgri project, the process to develop the plan, its outputs and roll out into the sector, will be presented during the conference.
For more information, see www.sasae.co.za
An important additional output of the SmartAgri project was the compilation of a document summarising the research needs for Climate Smart Agriculture in the Western Cape. These include research needs contained in the SmartAgri Plan, as well as additional research needs which were suggested by the stakeholders consulted during the project. Many of the research gaps fall within Strategic Focus Area 1 ‘Promote a climate-resilient low-carbon production system that is productive, competitive, equitable and ecologically sustainable across the value chain’ and Strategic Focus Area 3 ‘Strengthen monitoring and data and knowledge management and sharing, and lead strategic research regarding climate change and agriculture’. All researchers in agriculture and related disciplines are warmly encouraged to engage with this document and identify areas of research where they could contribute to the knowledge base. Interested researchers or research consortia can contact Dr Trautmann or Prof Midgley for further engagements.
SmartAgri research needs june 2016
Interested persons who would like to get more information on SmartAgri and its related actions, are invited to contact Dr Trautmann and Prof Midgley. Please subscribe to the SmartAgri Barometer if you would like to be updated on a regular basis.
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