Velezizweni: Eswatini is dependent on imports to feed its citizens and national production is constrained by frequent droughts, erratic rainfall, prolonged dry spells, and inadequate farming technologies.
However, Wellington Dlamini (66) has ignored such predicaments. Not deterred by his age, he has rolled up his sleeves by practicing Conservation Agriculture (CA) to produce the country’s stable crop – Maize, to sell and sustain livelihoods of his family.
Dlamini said the technology was time and energy saving compared to the convetional planting method. It allowed no till process and the tractor was the one doing the planting and using ridge. A herbicide is quickly applied after planting to remove weed, saving the farmer rigorous hours of hard work later. The programme was subsidized by government.
“It’s an awesome programme”, said Dlamini, nodding confidently, an apparent combination of victory and excitement. “I folded arms and watched the fields as the tractor planted and boom sprayed herbicide. It gave me fulfillment to know I would spend my time doing other things than worrying about hoeing the weed in the fields,” said Dlamini.
Dlamini received farming inputs worth R2500. It included herbicide, fertilizer, and 25kg seed. “Without government lending a helping hand planting this summer would’ve been difficult considering the heavy burden we bear on expensive farming inputs.”
National Conservation Agriculture Coordinator, Jabu Dlamini, said CA has a potential to transform smallholder rural agriculture. “We have a belief that conservation agriculture which is a climate smart agriculture can commercialize rural agriculture if appropriately adopted as a package. Of course, adhering to the three basic principles which is minimum soil disturbance, permanent soil cover, crop rotation or multiple cropping.”
She said since rain is erratic and hot weather conditions are continuing to increase the technology is ideal for rural farmers and can possibly benefit them to have resilient crops amidst the climate change phenomenon.
“When farmers practice the CA technology holistically, the crops must be resilient than conventionally grown. Our farmers would have enough food security and have enough to feed their families, said Dlamimi.
Practical and concrete foresight
In the same breadth, the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) has launched practical and concrete foresight tools and methodologies to plan for climate resilience in agriculture and natural resource management in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Region and beyond.
The organization, founded by member states to harmonize the implementation of agricultural research and development in the SADC region, it supports the national agricultural research and innovation systems. It also intends to address agricultural research and design issues in the region through interventions like, improving agricultural technology generation, dissemination and adoption in the region through collective efforts, training and capacity building.
It plays a key critical role as a link between farming populations and sources of new climate smart agriculture information and tools, so that practices can be appropriately adapted in southern Africa.
CCARDESA is integrating a plan for climate adaptation and climate smart agriculture – plays a coordinating role to lead and sustain actions in promoting climate resilience of farmers, women and farming system of the region in the face of climate change.
Regions like SADC with its highly uncertain and rapidly changing times, remains fundamentally dependent on a resilient agriculture system and natural resource base. Climate change still poses the greatest threat to the agricultural system and therefore technical capacity is needed to address these future impacts and adapt plans, policies and programs.
The organization is working with other partners, to truly achieve sustainable development. Famers and rural communities need new and improved knowledge and technologies from agri-food research and innovation.
However, it believes for such products to be relevant and useful, they need to be tailored to smallholders’ needs and risks – both present and emerging. They acknowledge that often agricultural research and technologies are developed for farmers like Dlamini without understanding their real needs, nor taking into account their viewpoint and the multiple interacting challenges they face.
For Eswatini, smallholder agriculture remains the backbone of rural livelihoods, with over 70 percent of the country’s people relying on subsistence farming. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has observed that post-harvest losses are estimated at 30 percent of all food produced, and inefficient supply chains contribute to high costs that discourage smallholder production. As a result, while farming is an important source of food for poor rural families, production is not enough to meet household’s food needs. In the face of such a scenario governments, UN agencies and organization like CCARDESA comes handy and relevant.
Considering that Eswatini is a lower-middle-income country with a population of 1.1 million, the UN organization noted that low investment in seeds, fertilizers and equipment, and structural barriers are preventing access to formal markets. Food insecurity affected 14 percent of the population in 2018, due to high poverty levels, low farming productivity and high prices.
When all has been said and done, the future of small holder farmers like, Dlamini lies in practical and concrete foresight tools and methodologies that plan for climate change resilience in agriculture and natural resource management of individual countries in the SADC Region.
Correspondent: Phathizwe Zulu