Climate Change impact in region; Climate-Smart Agriculture: UN Food and Agriculture Organisation briefing, with Deputy Minister

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

14 March 2017
Chairperson: Ms M Semenya (ANC)

Meeting Summary

The Food and Agriculture Organisation Forestry briefed the Committee on the impacts of climate change on agriculture, forestry and Fisheries.
Climate change is already putting stress on food systems and rural livelihoods all around the world.

The Organisation stated that already plus minus 14.3 million South Africans are estimated to be vulnerable to food insecurity while the food basket has recorded significant increases in recent months. The cost of the basic 23 item food basket has increased by approximately 11.8%. Combined with the low output of 2015 and limited agricultural input available, maize prices have risen to record high levels.

The Organisation reported that according to South Africa’s Farmers Weekly, South Africa loses an estimated 300-400 million tons of soil annually – the equivalent of 10 million fully–loaded 30ton interlink trucks. Dams in SA could be losing between R70 and R100 million worth of storage capacity each year due to sedimentation.  45 of the river estuaries in KwaZulu-Natal are in a serious stage of degradation.

Changes in ocean dynamics could lead to changes in migration patterns of fish and possibly reduce fish landings, especially in coastal fisheries, and this could make the ocean waters become unsuitable for fisheries, causing a reduction in and possible collapse of fishing activities in certain areas.

On what could be done to address climate change, the Organisation indicated it is playing an important role in assisting member countries to understand the challenges and opportunities for the agricultural sector and the range of possible responses. The Organisation is also supporting member countries to develop their capacities in integrated approaches such as agro-ecology and climate-smart agriculture.

The country’s National Development Plan already identifies climate change as one of the factors impeding development. The SA National Climate Change Response Policy, administered by the Department of Environmental Affairs, together with other departments, initiated projects and programmes to manage the effects of climate change and to contribute towards the global effort to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. 

About what needs to be done at regional level to address climate change, it was pointed out there needs to be a domestication of protocols and instruments at national level through harmonised policy and strategy development, development of legal frameworks and implementation of plans, projects and initiatives to ensure systematic achievement of environmental sustainability for effective mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

The country would benefit from systematic review of all agriculture, forestry and fisheries policies, programmes and interventions to assess the extent of use of climate smart approaches. It would be important to facilitate mainstreaming of Climate Smart Agriculture and other climate smart technologies in all agricultural value chain development activities across government departments.

Members wanted to know if it were possible to look at  traditional methods of agriculture because human behaviour contributes to climate change as well; wanted to establish if it were possible to detect what is happening in another African country so that ours could prepare against and prevent the spread of plant and animal diseases seeing that we have weak border regulations; enquired if there is anything that could be done to control the spread of the Armyworm; asked if there were any plans to introduce the co-learning and innovating programme for climate-resilient cropping systems to other provinces because it has proved to be a success in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo; and wanted to know why figures on food security are fluctuating.

Meeting report

Mr Lewis Hove, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Representative for South Africa, briefed the Committee about the impact of climate change on agriculture, forestry and fisheries; actions to address climate change; and what needs to be done to address climate change.

Already an estimated 14.3 million South Africans are estimated to be vulnerable to food insecurity, while the food basket has recorded significant increases in recent months -from August 2015 to August 2016, the cost of the basic 23 item food basket increased by approximately 11.8 %. Combined with the low output of 2015 and limited agricultural input available, maize prices have risen to record high levels. Delayed rains and late planting severely limited crop production. In its early response plan, the government recorded 227 000 farming households and 21 000 commercial farming units as affected. In addition, an animal mortality of 252 880 throughout the provinces has been reported.

Rising sea levels have been recorded all along South Africa’s coastline, but at different magnitudes in different regions. Changes in precipitation and fresh water flow, sea-level rise and increased temperatures and coastal storminess have led to changes in physical processes and biological responses in estuaries with an impact on ecosystem services.

An eastward shift in resource availability of West Coast rock lobster has had serious ecological, fisheries and resource management implications. Changes in the habitat for small pelagic fish and hakes off the west and south coast in response to shifts in winds and upwelling were detected in the early 1980s, mid 1990s and in 2009–2010.

Changes in ocean dynamics could lead to changes in migration patterns of fish and possibly reduce fish landings, especially in coastal fisheries, and this could make the ocean waters become unsuitable for fisheries, causing a reduction in and possible collapse of fishing activities in certain areas. In coastal areas, sea level rise may alter the salinity of estuarine habitats, inundate wetlands, and reduce or eliminate the abundance of submerged vegetation, adversely affecting those species which rely on these coastal habitats for reproduction and recruitment. On a regional scale, KwaZulu-Natal and west coast estuaries are likely to be the most affected from a structural and functional perspective.

Regarding increases on land degradation, Mr Hove reported that according to South Africa’s Farmers Weekly, South Africa loses an estimated 300-400 million tons of soil annually – the equivalent of 10 million fully-loaded 30t interlink trucks. Dams in SA could be losing between R70 and R100 million worth of storage capacity each year due to sedimentation.  45 of the river estuaries in KZN are in a serious stage of degradation.

On what could be done to address climate change, FAO is playing an important role in assisting member countries to understand the challenges and opportunities for the agricultural sectors and the range of possible responses. FAO is supporting member countries to develop their capacities in integrated approaches such as agro-ecology and climate-smart agriculture. The organisation further provides support to SADC to strengthen its capacity to provide coordination among member states in terms of better preparedness, early warning and adaptation to climate change and variability.

Whilst Africa at present contributes less than 5% of global carbon emissions, it bears the brunt of the impact of climate. The African Union’s Agenda 2063 highlights ‘Africa shall address the global challenge of climate change by prioritising adaptation in all our actions, drawing upon skills of diverse disciplines and with adequate support (affordable technology development and transfer, capacity building, financial and technical resources) to ensure implementation of actions for the survival of the most vulnerable populations, including islands states, and for sustainable development and shared prosperity’.

The Vision of the African strategy is to provide the AU as a whole, the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), Member States and other stakeholders with a reliable source of strategic guidance to enable them to effectively address climate change challenges. The strategy also proposes to carry out other interventions to address some specific priority areas including adaptation and risk management, Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) and some specific cross-cutting issues.

The country’s National Development Plan already identifies climate change as one of the factors impeding development. The SA National Climate Change Response Policy (SANCCRP), administered by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) together with other departments, initiated projects and programmes to manage the effects of climate change and to contribute towards the global effort to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.  These are some of the programmes:

  • The Green Economy
  • Green Fund
  • Climate Action Now
  • Climate Change Sector Plan for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
  • Land Care Programme
  • Early Warning Unit

During 2013 –2016, FAO in collaboration with DAFF implemented a project called co-learning and innovating for climate-resilient cropping systems in Southern Africa for supporting smallholder farmers to better manage climate related risks to crop production and post-harvest handling in KZN and Limpopo. The project is aimed at improving and sustaining household and national food security in Southern Africa through better management of climatic risks by smallholder farmers. The project achieved, amongst other things, the following:

  • increased awareness of climate related risks and hazards on crop production
  • climate smart technologies were demonstrated to communities
  • communities/government officials were capacitated on climate related risks and how to better manage them
  • communities were also capacitated on the interpretation and use of weather/climate information

During 2011 – 2015, FAO in collaboration with DAFF’s Land Care Programme implemented a project on climate change adaptation and mitigation. The project is aimed at increasing the number of farmers implementing CSA and CA in particular, in the Eastern and Southern African region. The project achieved, amongst other things, the following:

  • Draft CA policy developed and socioeconomic impact assessment undertaken
  • The establishment of the National Conservation Agriculture Task Force (NCATF)
  • The establishment of Conservation Agriculture Forums in the Western Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the North-West Province
  • Accredited CA training skill course through AgriSETA
  • Farmer led demonstrations and on-farm participatory research

FAO and DAFF have developed a project on the response to the El Niño-induced drought for small-scale farmers. The project aims to restore agricultural production capacities and strengthened resilience of 16 600 small-scale households affected by El Niño-induced drought in seven provinces. The project is currently undergoing approval processes within DAFF.

Pertaining to what needs to be done at regional level to address climate change, Mr Hove pointed out there needs to be a domestication of protocols and instruments at national level through harmonised policy and strategy development, development of legal frameworks and implementation of plans, projects and initiatives to ensure systematic achievement of environmental sustainability for effective mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

There needs to be an establishment of systems for information sharing and collaboration among member states and national stakeholders, and viable regional and national institutions should be established for ensuring coordination and effective multi-sectoral leadership on climate change issues.

The country would benefit from systematic review of all agriculture, forestry and fisheries policies, programmes and interventions to assess the extent of use of climate smart approaches. It would be important to facilitate mainstreaming of Climate Smart Agriculture and other climate smart technologies in all agricultural value chain development activities across government departments.

There is need to support capacity building for transformational change in agriculture and natural resources management through some of the following:

  • Knowledge and data on impact and vulnerability
  • Sustainable approaches, practices and use of natural resources
  • Policy harmonisation, coordination and intersectoral cooperation
  • Leveraging climate finance
  • Gender mainstreaming
  • Conservation of Biodiversity including genetic resources

There is a clear need to channel public and private investments to agricultural sectors, including through flows of climate finance to harness their transformative potential. Pursuing climate-resilient development pathways that could simultaneously contribute to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would require integrated approaches and substantial, long-term investment in agriculture, fisheries and forestry. These are costs that smallholders could not bear on their own. Therefore, SA should mobilise both domestic and international resources.

Concerted efforts can be directed at awareness campaigns that would inform smallholders about the major factors that contribute towards climate change, principally the greenhouse effect. Such knowledge could be critical in enabling smallholder farmers to be effective practitioners of climate smart agriculture. Research that informs action is needed to address the urgent climate risks to food security and the global challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors, including agriculture.

In his conclusion, Mr Hove stated that climate change is already putting stress on food systems and rural livelihoods all around the globe. Today’s response to climate change determines how we would feed future generations. By supporting the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), FAO plays an important role in ensuring that people interact harmoniously with the planet’s ecosystems and benefit from their services, while maintaining and sustainably using biodiversity and all the world’s natural resources now and in the future. FAO has an important role to play in supporting countries and in making sure that links are made between food security, agriculture and climate change, and remains committed to providing technical assistance to the government of South Africa in addressing climate change and assisting the country to achieve its national development priorities and goals.

(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate the impact of climate change on food security in the region and predicted intensity of response in three marine bio-geographic regions of SA’s coastline)

Discussion
Mr N Paulsen (EFF) asked if it were possible to look at traditional methods of agriculture because, even though farming does its bit to climate change and soil degradation, human behaviour contributes to climate change as well, and that farming is highly intensive and profit driven.

Mr Hove said climate change is best addressed by traditional systems, but it is difficult to ignore technology and innovation. It is a question of matching the various approaches in order to achieve what you want to do.

Ms A Steyn (DA) wanted to establish if it were possible to detect what is happening in another African country so that ours could prepare against and prevent the spread of plant and animal diseases seeing that we have weak border regulations. She wanted to know how people can prepare for ground water and asked if it were a better option seeing that there is drought in the Western Cape and other areas. She also enquired what is the best way for people and farmers to move towards climate change methods.

Mr Hove, on weak border regulations, stated that the whole thing of knowing and preparing against animal and plant diseases happening in another country could be legislated, but border regulations are difficult to control. This is not the territory of FAO though it does provide information and evidence on these matters. With regard to ground water, though he does not understand it, it would be a problem because it needs to be recharged by what is falling. It is not sustainable. Concerning farmers and people moving towards climate change methods, there should be incentives for those who are using the land appropriately and people should adopt what they think is right.

Mr P Maloyi (ANC) wanted to establish if FAO had any monitoring mechanisms to monitor what the member countries are submitting to them. He further asked what is being done to the big countries which are the biggest contributors of greenhouse emissions because Africa is the worst affected continent yet it contributes less than 5% of the global carbon emissions.

Mr Hove, about monitoring, said there is a huge concern that policies are there but are not supported by governments. The policies need to be revamped and there is a commitment from other participating countries. Regarding the big countries, there is still reluctance from the US and some EU countries but everyone is now on board to support the climate change initiatives. Most governments are committed to the initiatives, they only need to implement.

Mr W Maphanga (ANC) enquired if anything could be done to control the spread of the Armyworm, and wanted to know if there were any plans to introduce the co-learning and innovating programme for climate-resilient cropping systems to other provinces because it has proved to be a success in KZN and Limpopo.

Mr Hove elaborated that the Armyworm has not gone to Lesotho and Mauritius and its surrounding areas. The pest is with us and is mainly affecting maize, but when the maize is harvested, it has a tendency to migrate to other crops like tomatoes. But it is still to be seen if it is a summer or winter pest. It is possible that winter conditions might kill it, but that is still unknown. FAO is collaborating with universities on research regarding this pest. On the eco-learning programme, it would be taken to other provinces because it succeeded as a pilot in KZN and Limpopo because they wanted to see if those provinces understood what climate change is.

Mr N Capa (ANC) asked if FAO experienced any resistance to its awareness efforts. He also asked how the challenge of people who develop big machinery to till the soil is going to be addressed because the very same machinery is dangerous to the soil. He agreed with FAO on the need for more resources because that would assist DAFF to get out of the mess.

Mr Hove, concerning resistance, said it is not much because most governments agree climate change exists and is an impediment to development. Pertaining to resources, the climate change agenda is big and he did not know how DAFF plans to implement Climate Smart Agriculture. On machinery damaging the land, the users of these machines need to be convinced they need appropriate machinery that could till the land without damaging it. They do not need to buy machinery that destroys the very same thing that feeds them.

Mr P van Dalen (DA) remarked that we need to look at the other main contributors to climate change like migration and growing population to see if the battle of climate change could be won. He commented that the graphs on rainfall per province concentrated more on areas affected by rain but less on those affected by drought like the Western Cape. It would have been better if the graphs had shown all the provinces.

Mr Hove promised the Members the graphs would be revised and forwarded to the Committee.

Mr C Mathale (ANC) asked how people should strike a balance on the issue of producing while preserving natural resources at the same time.

Mr Hove said we should look at renewable energy as the possible best method in addressing the problem.

The Chairperson, first, wanted to establish if we would be able to make sure that countries are adhering to Agenda 2063 because that would contribute to the achievement of the plan. Second, she asked if there were any plan to assist in the lack of capacity by countries in the sharing of water resources. Third, she wanted to know if FAO would be able to help in the consolidation of resources by DAFF, DEA and DRDLR in implementing the Land Care Programme because these three departments are implementing it in three different directions. Fourth, she enquired if there were available resources that could go to civic society organisations that are activists on climate change, because it appears there is no coordinated effort to educate the public about climate change issues.

Mr Hove pointed out that Agenda 2063 is a guide for government on what they could do but countries do not seem to adhere to it. The Committee is better placed to find out why government is not implementing it. Concerning the integration of water resources in the region, there are good policies around the continent but they are not implemented. He did not know whether it was a question of capacity or resources. An investigation is needed on what could be done. A conference is scheduled to take place in Durban soon to look at how the region could start with the water integration programme and its challenges. About the awareness campaigns, there is a need for the campaigns to be coordinated. But he warned that one thing could mean different things to different people. For example, conservation agriculture in SA is understood differently in other countries. On the consolidation of Land Care, he indicated FAO engages on projects to make an impact and that is what its focus on agriculture, forestry and fisheries is.

The Chairperson wanted to know if climate change has been included on the work streams of Operation Phakisa on Agriculture, and if there is a need to mobilise services on those work streams. She also wanted to know why figures on food security are fluctuating.

Mr Hove indicated that work streams on Operation Phakisa are setting the agenda at a high level. Interventions like Climate Smart Agriculture are needed on how we could keep the project up there. Regarding fluctuating figures, the figures were from StatsSA but FAO did not have an answer on why they fluctuate.

Mr M Mannya, Deputy Director-General in Food and Agrarian Reform: DAFF, on fluctuating food security figures, explained the problem is not about food production, but is around access to food, income and employment. The introduction of the grant system brought the figures down. But because unemployment is on the rise, the figures on food insecurity are also going to be up. Pertaining to Operation Phakisa, there are two initiatives that deal with the components of water and veld management, but the project has limited itself for now to prioritised areas.

Mr Maloyi asked if the country is ready to deal with the tomato pest. He commented that people outside SA appreciate the work we are doing but the locals do not appreciate that. DAFF should ensure that the Committee gets the report or programme on climate change for oversight purposes and to see what the country is doing.

Mr Hove said the pest is new and could just fly across the border. The region would be meeting in Zambia to discuss what to do about it.

Mr M Mannya added that some work has started to pull the role players together and to put some mechanisms in place.

Mr Paulsen enquired if FAO would be able to help people involved in the Philippi Horticulture which is under threat because it houses an aquifer that is good for agricultural land and the City of Cape Town wants to pave it to develop houses there.

Mr Hove pointed out that FAO’s first entry point is at national level. In order to go to the provinces, they have to be guided by the Department. FAO only starts at national level. Maybe the Department could provide assistance.

The Chairperson asked if FAO had a structure to work with the legislatures and African Parliament.

Mr Hove said FAO only provides information and evidence on things that are happening and not taking place. A sovereign state would not be able to be told by a Secretariat on what to do or not.

The Deputy Minister, Mr Bheki Cele, in his concluding remarks, stated that FAO could have answered better on the tomato pest as to what happens at regional level. The coordination of the SADC is the one that could tell the Committee more on pests at the borders. He also noted that preventative measures require a budget. The briefing about these worms, in general, is not taken seriously and the interventions are expensive. As a result, a joint briefing by DEA, DAFF and DRDLR is necessary through the lead department, which is DEA, in order to understand these matters. This is not a political matter, but an administrative area which is easy to coordinate. Furthermore, the UN needs to tell us what the world is doing about the 95% it contributes to climate change whereas Africans contribute only 5%, and lastly, a briefing is needed on the re-integration of water because it is raining in KZN, Gauteng and Limpopo.

The meeting was adjourned.