'Smart farming' to help South Africans tackle drought

Southern African farmers know a lot about climate change due to the worsening drought conditions they face. But, according to agriculture and development researchers, these farmers lack the resources to put solutions that work into place.

That is in part because government agricultural extension services, which offer training and advice to farmers, have too few agents, states a report by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, based in the Netherlands.

In many cases, farmers are simply not aware of potential solutions, said Oluyede Ajayi, a senior programme coordinator with the centre, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting in Johannesburg on scaling up climate-smart agricultural solutions.

Such shortcomings are one reason an ongoing drought in southern Africa has left 23m people dependent on food aid, with another 13m in need of help, according to the Southern African Development Community, which launched a €2.5bn emergency appeal in July.

But a new regional push, focused on promoting four key actions to adapt agriculture and curb growing hunger, could help, Ajayi said.

The best ways to assist southern Africa’s farmers, agricultural experts said, are by increasing their access to insurance for crop failure and livestock deaths, and giving them better weather advice via mobile phones.

Helping them diversify their sources of income is also key, they said, as is developing stress-tolerant seeds and better ways of managing land to conserve water.


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