Front Page Slideshow

Ph.D Thesis

1. An exploration of perceptions, adaptive capacity and food security in the Ngqushwa Local Municipality, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Sonwabo Perez Mazinyo


Approximately sixty percent of Africans depend on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods. South Africa is evidenced to be susceptible to inclement climate which impacts on rural livelihoods as well as on farming systems. While South Africa is considered to be food sufficient, it is estimated that approximately 35% of the population is vulnerable to food insecurity. Therefore with the application of surveys and interviews this study investigates the factors influencing household, subsistence and small-scale farmer perceptions of vulnerability to climate variability as well as the determinants of adaptive capacity.

A sample of 308 households is surveyed and four focus group discussions are administered in Ngqushwa Local Municipality as a case study. Furthermore, the study also focuses on the biophysical changes or factors (scientific analysis of the prevailing climatic regimes–rainfall trends); the interrogation of the impact of food systems on both food prices as well as its implications on food sovereignty. The study also interrogates the relationship between crop yield and rainfall data over a 30-year period. Therefore the study adopts a mixed method approach to ensure triangulation. The study finds that rural communities are able to perceive climate variability and its related changes as well as its negative impact on crop production, food access and availability. The perceived rainfall trends also corroborate this.

Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient reveals that there is a strong correlation between crop yields and rainfall (r = 0.69). Meteorological analyses also show that the rainfall trend has been significantly variable over 112 years (1900 - 2011) with several dry spells threatening the subsistence and small-scale farmers’ sustainable livelihoods. The food systems pose threats to food safety, food security and historical food sovereignty for the rural community of Ngqushwa Local Municipality. Adaptive capacity is greatly impaired by the lack of in co-ordination of adaptation strategies, which communally benefit the majority of the farming respondents in the study area. Therefore vulnerability to climate variability impacts on the ability of the respondents to achieve food security. The study also finds that there is perceived competition between the farmers and wild life for the natural resources. The respondents’ perception is that climate variability and change is responsible for such competition.

The study recommends that the national, provincial and local governments must foster a new food production model that is not based on the agro-business model and its attendant technologies but on one that is based on robust agro-ecological farming techniques which enhance adaptive capacity; which foster food safety; which promote food sovereignty; and which reduce vulnerability in a sustainable manner. Given the extent of climate variability in the study area the restoration of the NLM weather station infrastructure can also aid the farmers in taking advantage of a robust early warning system for better estimation of climate trends which enhance crop production.

Keywords: perceptions, food systems, adaptive capacity, food security, food sovereignty, rural, rainfall, climate variability and change.

2. Vulnerability to Climate Change, Impact and Adaptation Options for smallholder farmers in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa.

Sibanda Melusi


The purpose of this study was to assess climate vulnerability, determine the economic impacts of climate change and analyse determinants of smallholder farmers’ choices between alternative adaptation measures available to them in the Eastern Cape Province. A total 250 smallholder farming households were interviewed in June 2013 by the use of convenience sampling and also focus group discussions. The study employed a multi-stage sampling procedure were the farmers were stratified into irrigation farming and dry-land farming. The study covered Cofimvaba and Qamata Irrigation Scheme (QIS) both in Chris Hani district and Mqanduli in the O.R. Tambo district. In addition to survey data, the study used secondary data obtained from South African Weather Services (SAWS) and the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) Hydrological Services.

To quantify climate vulnerability in the Eastern Cape Province, the study employed a vulnerability assessment in terms of selected environmental and socio-economic factors that reflect the three components of vulnerability (exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity). To measure the impact of climate change on net revenue from all agricultural production systems (crop and livestock) in dry-land and irrigated farms, the study adopted a cross-sectional Ricardian approach. A multinomial choice model was used to analyze determinants of farmers’ choices between alternative adaptation measures available to them.

Frequency of drought, flooding frequency and hail frequency, percentage of land under irrigation, soil degradation, infrastructure access, markets access, access to improved water and access to farm assets were significant in quantifying overall vulnerability in the study areas. The results showed that droughts, floods and hail were significant on the exposure component. On the sensitivity component, the percentage of land under irrigation and soil degradation were significant. The findings showed that the study areas have suffered from inappropriate land uses, which have resulted in severe land degradation which has the potential to reduce the natural production capacity. Exposure and sensitivity were summed to give the overall impact to climate change. Adaptive capacity was found to be lesser than the potential impact implying the smallholder farmers in the study areas were vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Low adaptive capacity was associated with low infrastructural development, lack of access to farm implements and low market access. The overall vulnerability index showed that the smallholder farmers in the study areas were vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Results showed that climatic variables, water flow and household socio-economic factors (family size, access to extension, experience in farming, access to a tractor, ownership of farm implements and the use of irrigation technology positively influencing net farm revenues across all farm types). The household socio-economic factors showed had a greater impact in influencing net farm revenue on irrigated farms than dry-land farms due to better access to capital resources, better access to extension services and credit on irrigation farms. Access to credit, access to markets and distance to both input and output markets negatively influenced net farm revenue per hectare on both dry-land and irrigated farms. Improved access to credit, access to markets and their proximity is paramount particularly on dry-land farming where the impact on net farm revenue was greater than on irrigation farmers.

Marginal impact analysis showed that increasing temperature marginally during the winter season under dry-land farming reduces the net revenue per hectare by R384.68. With increased marginal temperatures during the spring and fall seasons under dry-land farming increases the net revenue per hectare by R399.01 and R527.67 respectively. During fall season, higher temperatures on dry-land farms increased net farm revenue by R527.67. Increased precipitation during the spring season reduced the net farm revenue per hectare for both dry-land farming irrigation farming. The impact of additional precipitation in spring on net farm revenue was larger (R288.63) for irrigated areas than for dryland areas (R112.67). Summer precipitation was found to increase net farm revenue per hectare on both dry-land and irrigation farming by R74.79 and R160.80 respectively. The findings generally showed that climate change can have both positive and negative impacts on net farm revenue per hectare on crop and livestock farming. However the effect of climate change was more damaging to smallholder farming more especially to dry-land farms with increases in temperature. Increased precipitation is an added advantage for dry-land farms.

The multinomial choice model showed that gender, education, access to agricultural extension services, access to credit, access to electricity, access to formal markets and awareness of climate change were important factors affecting the adoption of various farm level adaptation measures considered in the model.

Gender, education, access to extension, access to electricity, farm sizes and awareness positively and significantly influenced the adoption of farm level adaptation strategies on both dry-land and irrigation farming. Gender composition can increase the probability of adopting crop diversification as a climate adaptation strategy over monoculture by about 5% and 3% for dryland and irrigation farming respectively. Improving education by 100% would enhance the adoption of multiple crops under dry-land over mono cropping by about 26%. Purchased livestock feeding over mono cropping is likely to be enhanced by improving education by 100% by about 31% on dry-land farming and 33% on irrigation farming. Improving access to extension services by 100% by smallholder farmers would increase the adopting of crop diversification over monoculture by about 15% on dry-land farming and 3% on irrigation farming and multiple crops under dry-land and mono cropping under irrigation by about 24% and 45% respectively.

Improving access to electricity by 100% would increase the adoption of the farm level strategy; crop diversification over mono cropping by about 11% on dry-land farms and 25% on irrigation farms. Improving access to electricity by 100%, would enhance the adoption of growing multiple crops under dry-land over mono cropping by about 15% for dry-land farming. Additional land to a farmer would increase the adoption of crop diversification over mono cropping by about 3% on dry-land farms and 15% on irrigation farms. Additional land owned by a farmer would increase the probability of adopting livestock rearing under dry-land over mono cropping by about 6% on dry-land farms and 7% on irrigation farms. Additional land owned by a farmer would increase the probability of adopting the growing of multiple crops under dry-land over mono cropping by about 18%. Improving awareness to climate change and its impacts by 100% would increase the adoption of crop diversification by about 10% on dry-land farms and 48% on irrigation farming and the adoption of growing of multiple crops under dry-land by about 35% on dry-land farms.

Access to credit and access to formal markets showed a negative influence on adopting farm level adaptation measures. However empirical evidence showed that improving access to credit by 100%, would enhance the adoption of farm level strategies over mono about 12% on dry-land farming and 35% on irrigation farming for crop diversification and the use of purchased livestock feed by about 14% on dry-land farming and 30% on irrigation farming respectively. Improving access to markets by 100% would enhance the adoption of the farm level adaptation strategy of crop diversification by about 25% on dry-land farms and 35% on irrigation farms.

Overall Irrigation farms showed better likelihood of adopting adaption measures to climatechange than dry-land farms. The findings illustrate the importance to enhance adaptation efforts both at the micro (farm) and macro (national) levels more particularly for smallholder rain-fed farming where there is more potential damage from climate change. There is need for government policies and strategic plans that would support improved agricultural productivity in the face of climate change.

Keywords: Adaptation, Climate change, Eastern Cape Province, Impacts, Multinomial choice,  models, Ricardian approach, Smallholder farmers, Vulnerability.

3. Climate change risk perceptions, vulnerability and the significance of ‘assets’ in climate change mitigation and adaptation in rural and peri-urban Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Amos Apraku


This study examined climate change risk perceptions, vulnerability and the significance of ‘assets’ in climate change mitigation and adaptation in rural and peri-urban Eastern Cape, South Africa. It assessed the levels of local climate change awareness and how such awareness was articulated in local discourses, analysed actual risks (and awareness thereof) against those predicted by relevant statutory agencies, and examined the extent to which local residents drew on local knowledge, ‘culture’ and traditional practices (amongst other ‘assets’) to mitigate their vulnerability and adapt to adverse climatic changes. The study was conceptualised against the background that most climate change risk and vulnerability studies adopt a ‘global’ and ‘continental’ focus and ignore localised variations and specificities – which makes it impossible to craft local climate change impact mitigation strategies that make sense.

From survey, interview, focus group and observational data, the study found low levels of local awareness about climate change and its associated risks. It revealed that local residents blamed climate change-related phenomena on gods, spirits and other mystical forces. Agriculture, water resources, human settlements, health, ecosystems and biodiversity were found to be the most affected by climate change. A crucial finding was that, besides economic and other class-based assets, indigenous/local knowledge (‘ideational assets’) played an important role in the ways local residents adapted themselves to – and in some ways curbed - the adverse impacts of climate change.

The study concluded from these findings that households and communities have different degrees of vulnerability to climate change, depending on awareness levels and degrees of access to specific ‘assets’. However, in the main, climate change impacts in the communities were potentially curbed by culture, with indigenous/local knowledge and related ideational assets being the main index of adaptation and weapon against disastrous impacts. The study extends current knowledge on the significance and contribution of indigenous knowledge systems to climate change impact mitigation and adaptation, particularly in Africa, and demonstrates how local knowledge can contribute to ‘global’ understanding of one of today’s critical environmental challenges.