The impact of a change in climate on small-scale farmers: case studies of the Khokhwane, Sizanenjana and Richmond communities in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Pillay, Simone Elvina.
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A large percentage of land use in South Africa is used for agricultural purposes, as this sector serves as the economic backbone of the country. A change in climate is likely to result in an increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters, such as floods and droughts. This has the potential to place strain on land, water resources and food security in rural areas, where small-scale subsistence farmers are dependent on agriculture to sustain their livelihoods. The objectives of this study were to establish small-scale farmers’ perception of a change in climate, and investigate the perceived impact a change in climate had on their agricultural production and food security. This research explored the current coping strategies small-scale farmers are adopting to build resilience to these impacts, as well as the potential mitigation strategies that could be implemented to improve their standard of living and ensure sustainable agricultural practices. Research was undertaken in three small-scale farming communities. The communities were: Khokhwane, Sizanenjana, and Richmond. The study employed a mixed-method approach using both quantitative and qualitative techniques. Quantitative methods consisted of structured questionnaire surveys and statistical analysis. The responses from the questionnaires were inputted and analysed using Statistical Package for Social Science version 23. Qualitative approaches consisted of participatory exercises, observations and focus group discussions. The findings revealed that the majority of the respondents residing in the community households were women and children who carried out daily chores and upkeep of farm plots. Without environmental education and training, small-scale farmers have limited knowledge about a change in climate and its projected impact on food security. Overall, a change in climate is understood to have impacts on agricultural production in the three communities. On the one hand, results obtained illustrated that the Khokhwane and Richmond community experienced an improved standard of living and access to services compared to the Sizanenjana community. This was due to the assistance they are receiving from the local municipality and Non-Governmental Organisations through community upliftment, which supported farmers in establishing food gardens. This has aided them in achieving a favourable food security status and provided many employment opportunities for local small-scale farmers. On the other hand, the Sizanenjana community has received very little assistance from the local municipality. Thus, results from the Sizanenjana community reveal that small-scale farmers suffer greatly from the impact of a change in climate, especially on their crop production. Many households have ceased crop production and suffer from poverty and food insecurity. The findings demonstrate that in the future, environmental education and training programmes need to be carried out in communities in small-scale rural farms. Farmers should be educated on the projected impact of a change in climate and trained in sustainable agricultural practices, as a way in which to build resilience towards these changes. This can be achieved through increased stakeholder interaction, especially local government involvement, and the continued support from Non-Governmental Organisations. This has proven to be extremely helpful in improving the livelihoods of the rural poor.