Thematic study: Climate change and its impacts on the feasibility and sustainability of small-scale systems of agricultural production, in communal areas and on farms transferred through land reform
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This paper is intended to provide context and support discussion on the potential impacts of climate on small-scale farming systems in South Africa and the resulting socio-economic impacts, including in the context of black smallholder farmers in communal areas and on farms transferred thorough land reform. The paper includes detailed consideration of the potential socio-economic impacts of climate change on smallholder and small-scale commercial farmers at four pilot study sites (Matzikamma and the Western Cape; Greater Tzaneen and Limpopo; Sakhisizwe and the Eastern Cape; Inkosi Langalibalele and KwaZulu Natal) and the associated local value chains/commodities (including livestock products, subtropical tree crops, sugarcane, vegetables and fruit). Studies of historical climate trends in South Africa show that the country has experienced widespread and statistically significant temperature increases over the last century. Climate change projections indicate that these trends will continue, where temperature increases of between 2-3°C, or up to 3-4°C, may be expected by the mid-century future (depending on the rate of future greenhouse gas emissions). Predicted changes in rainfall are less clear. The majority of models predict a long-term decrease in average annual rainfall, while a minority of models predict that certain areas (particularly in the sub-tropical, high rainfall regions of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces) may experience increased intensity of rainfall and/or unusually high rainfall events. Most climate projections, particularly under a scenario of unabated greenhouse gas emissions, suggest that southern Africa will be both warmer and drier by the end of the century. The general increase in average temperatures will be characterised by increases in the number of very hot days and heat waves. The effect of high temperatures combined with reduced rainfall, prolonged dry spells and droughts will result in multiple negative impacts on agriculture and related sectors such as water, biodiversity and human health. The overall impact of climate change on agriculture and other land-based livelihoods, as well as the potential options to cope and adapt, are highly context-specific. All scenarios considered in the provincial case studies indicated that multiple market-oriented value chains are highly vulnerable to the combined effects of heat and water stress. Direct negative impacts will include reduced annual production, quality and shelf-life of horticultural products (including high-value export produce). Production of various livestock products is also likely to be constrained, through direct stress impacts on animals as well as indirect effects such as forage/pasture availability and pests and disease. Possible scenarios for the effects of climate change on smallholder farming systems described in the four provincial case studies, include long-term negative effects such as decreased crop and livestock production; loss of livestock and productive assets; decreasing land value; loss of agricultural jobs; landscape/district-level changes in patterns of land use and cropping; landscape/district-level changes in size and composition of livestock herds, grazing resources and land use.
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