A roadmap to resilience for Western Cape agriculture

A roadmap to resilience for Western Cape agriculture

The Western Cape has been prone to numerous climate-related extremes such as droughts, heavy rain, floods, storms (with strong wind and hail), wildfires and plant and animal pest and disease outbreaks over the last number of years. These are a natural feature of the climate of the Western Cape and will continue as part of natural climate variability. However, climate change projections for the Western Cape suggest a likelihood of more frequent and more intense extreme weather events.

Climate-related disasters pose significant challenges to the agricultural sector. If not addressed adequately, the intensification of disaster risks associated with climate change has the potential to undermine the productivity and resilience of the sector. The impacts also extend significantly into the wider provincial economy. While the impacts on specific farming systems, value chains and localities will differ, there is increasing evidence that some farming communities in the Western Cape are approaching their limits to coping with current and future extreme events.

In an attempt to guide the agricultural sector in the Western Cape to become climate smart and foster greater resilience, the SmartAgri plan was developed as a “better together initiative of the Departments of Agriculture (lead department), and Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, and released in 2016. The plan was commissioned by the lead department and compiled by a team of experts of the African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI).The full article is for subscribed members only. To view the full article please subscribe. It’s FREE!Log In Register

SmartAgri (The Western Cape Climate Change Response Framework and Implementation Plan for the Agricultural Sector) is a sterling example of how government developed a plan and is implementing this plan in collaboration with the sector to the benefit of all involved in the agricultural sector (including commercial and small holder farmers, agri-workers, agri- businesses, etc). The plan is furthermore an attempt to secure the food basket of the Western Cape and beyond (regional, global exports, etc.) and shows how government developed a plan that would make the agricultural sector in the Western Cape more climate change resilient and sustainable, thereby securing jobs and ensuring economic development. SmartAgri is furthermore showing how a difficult and comprehensive challenge to a sector, in this case climate change, and ways to become more resilient as a sector, can be addressed in a palatable and user-friendly way, and where the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders are clearly defined. The main aim is for stakeholders to pick up the plan, read it, get excited and move towards climate change resilience in their own way and at their own pace with their own tailor-made implementation on their respective farms.

SmartAgri is the most authoritative source of information for the Western Cape agricultural sector on how climate change will affect the future. It was developed by a team of experts who consulted various levels of the sector in 23 agro-ecological regions of the Western Cape. It also details concrete action plans on how the sector can mitigate these threats to build a sustainable agricultural sector which is able to withstand the climate of our future.

Four Strategic Focus Areas (SFAs) were identified in the plan:

  • Promote a climate-resilient low-carbon production system that is productive, competitive, equitable and ecologically sustainable across the value chain.
  • Strengthen effective climate disaster risk reduction and management for agriculture.
    Strengthen monitoring, data and knowledge management and sharing, and lead strategic research for climate change and agriculture.
  • Ensure good co-operative governance and institutional planning for effective climate change response implementation for agriculture.

The SmartAgri plan is strongly premised on collaborative and co-ordinated planning and action within and between the public and private sector, including National, Provincial and Local Government, organised agriculture and commodity organisations, individual farmers and local farmer organisations, agri-processors and agri-businesses in the value chain, labour and civil society, research and academic institutions.

According to Dr Ilse Trautmann, Chief Director: Research and Technology Development of the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, and Chairperson of the Steering Committee who managed the project, the SmartAgri plan presents the “road map” for the agricultural sector to travel towards a more productive and sustainable future, despite the uncertainties around specific climate projections. The plan is a joint effort that seeks to ensure the continued growth and competitiveness of the entire agricultural value chain. Through its focus on innovation, the plan allows the climate change challenge to serve as the catalyst for realising a new socially and ecologically just and productive agricultural sector.

Six “Priority Projects” have also been developed, both to deliver climate resilience to agriculture over the short- to medium-term, and to begin the transformative process required for long-term resilience and sustainability at a time when the climate will have changed significantly.

The priority projects are:

  • Conservation Agriculture for all commodities and farming systems
  • Restored ecological infrastructure for increased landscape productivity, socio-ecological resilience and soil carbon sequestration
  • Collaborative integrated catchment management for improved water security (quality and quantity) and job creation
  • Energy efficiency and renewable energy case studies to inspire the transition to low-carbon agriculture
  • Climate-proofing the growth of agri-processing in the Western Cape
  • Integrated knowledge system for climate smart agricultural extension

The “Priority Projects” have been identified by a range of stakeholders and are supported by the current scientific understanding of urgent actions needed. Several of the projects will link with key provincial strategic projects over the next five years and can thus benefit from existing high levels of support and resourcing. Jointly these projects will accelerate the implementation of the SmartAgri plan.

In order for the SmartAgri plan to be rolled out to the sector in a more effective way since its launch in 2016, Prof. Stephanie Midgley, well-known climate change expert and project leader during the development of the SmartAgri plan, was appointed as a specialist advisor for a period of 24 months, commencing 1 August 2016. Since her appointment, Prof. Midgley assisted the Department with presentations at various internal departmental events, commodity organisations, study groups, stakeholder organisations, municipalities, commented on climate change documents and proposals, and attended various meetings on national level. Various popular publications were also published on climate smart production practises.

Several documents have been developed as part of the SmartAgri process, including the Executive Summary, Framework, Implementation Plan, 16 briefs and 6 case studies, and can be downloaded in pdf format from www.greenagri.org.za (click on ‘SmartAgri”). A creative video explaining SmartAgri in simple terms can also be viewed by clicking on “media”.

A highlight of SmartAgri was the inclusion thereof as a case study in the climate groups’ Under2Coalition early in 2018. The case study was published in April 2018. Two awards were also received for the SmartAgri plan (the Premier Service Excellence Gold Award 2018 for the Best Implemented Project), and the Eco-logic 2019 Climate Change Gold Award.

As part of the external evaluation programme of the Department, the SmartAgri plan is currently being evaluated to assess whether the plan was properly designed and relevant, to what extent its outcomes have been achieved after three years of implementation (2016 – 2019) , whether there are indications that the sector is more resilient and how the plan and its implementation can be strengthened in support of the agricultural sector. Another sterling example how government also evaluates its own work to the benefit of the people of the Western Cape. The final report of the evaluation is due at the end of March 2020.

For more information, contact Dr Ilse Trautmann at ilset@elsenburg.com or


  • Chief Director: Research and Technology Development Services, Department of Agriculture Western Cape

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