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New stewardship project equips smallholders against climate change

The WWF Nedbank Green Trust has partnered with Indigo Development and Change to launch the "Sustainable Stewardship with Small-scale Farmers in the Suid Bokkeveld" project. Shannon Parring, Director of Indigo Development and Change says: "The project focuses on developing the capacities of small-scale farmers in the Suid Bokkeveld in order to allow them to farm more wisely in the face of climate change and to promote stewardship to sustain the area's unique biodiversity and ecosystems."
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The Suid Bokkeveld in the Northern Cape has temperatures that range from over 40 degrees in the summer to below zero in the winter. Climate change is, unfortunately, steadily making the extreme temperatures of the Suid Bokkeveld even more intense. In times of drought, this turns the already arid area into an entirely parched landscape.

"The intention of the project is that at least 20 small-scale farmers undergo extensive training in Climate Wise Agriculture (CWA). They will test out climate wise approaches to farming in trial plots on local farms that will be set up for evaluating and monitoring alternative practices in order to develop location-specific strategies for sustainable agriculture," says Parring.

Ensuring food security

CWA guides the transformation and reorientation of agricultural systems in order to ensure food security and agricultural longevity in the face of a rapidly changing climate. CWA aims to build resilience to climate change, sustainably increase agricultural productivity and incomes and, where possible, reduce greenhouse gas emissions without resorting to GMO technologies.

"Farmers participating in the project receive CWA training and participate in quarterly Climate Change Preparedness workshops so as to keep up to date on long-term forecasts and share their strategies for adaptation to anticipated and experienced weather events.

"Recently the participating farmers visited Goedgedacht, near Riebeek Kasteel, and Spier, in the Stellenbosch area, to learn about alternative approaches to organic farming in the context of caring for natural resources in a time of rapidly changing climate. The knowledge exchange visits inspired the Suid Bokkeveld farmers to adopt some of the concepts and methods that they learned about," adds Parring.

Conserving biodiversity

The sustainable stewardship programme that is supported by the project engages with willing small-scale farmers about working to conserve the unique biodiversity of the Bokkeveld Plateau. This area is host to more than 1,350 different types of plants, many of which produce stunning floral displays after good rains. More than 80 of these plants are endemic to the Bokkeveld Plateau.

The idea of stewardship has been actively promoted amongst the large-scale farmers of the area by the Northern Cape Department of Environment and Nature Conservation and its partners, but these efforts have tended to by-pass farmers who have access to smaller areas of land.

Parring continues: "For the small-scale farmers of the Suid Bokkeveld the word stewardship is not a familiar one. However, in their approach and methods of farming, it is evident that many farmers have long used the land in harmony with nature.

Evolving farm approaches

"We intend to stimulate the stewardship approach to extend beyond boundaries, fences and farm gates to the wider landscape. To this end, we intend to share what we learn in this project with a much wider farming community. As with technology and many other aspects of modern life, farming approaches are also evolving over time, hence this project seeks to contribute to enabling the participating farmers to learn new ways to respond pro-actively to the changes in climate."

"We hope that other small and large-scale farmers, researchers and other stakeholders will visit this arid region of South Arica and learn about the methods suitable for sustainable agriculture under arid conditions affected by climate change."
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