The importance of introducing climate resilient agriculture was highlighted at a workshop on UKZN’s Ukulinga Research Farm.

Researchers from the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) who are involved in the uMgungundlovu District Municipality’s (UMDM) uMngeni Resilience Project (URP), hosted the half-day workshop at UKZN’s Ukulinga Research Farm to focus on capacity building within the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (KZNDARD).

The URP is a climate change adaptation project funded by the global Adaptation Fund through the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). It includes a component that is aimed at improving capacity and sharing learnings between communities leading the implementation of early warnings systems, climate-proof settlements and climate-resistant agriculture, all of which are research targets of the URP.

This component led to the workshop – the first in a series – to train KZNDARD extension officers within uMgungundlovu on climate change adaptation. UKZN and KZNDARD maintain a working relationship under an official memorandum of understanding.

Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science Professor Albert Modi, who is also the project leader for the URP, opened the workshop and thanked KZNDARD officials for their attendance as well as UMDM officials involved in the URP, Ms Lungi Ndlovu and Mr Lindokuhle Khanyile.

‘Part of this component provides the opportunity for SAEES and UKZN to support the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in mainstreaming adaptation practices into its extension services and farmer support programmes,’ said Modi, who emphasised KZNDARD’s importance in contributing to the success of the URP.

Mr Dayanand Chetty, Deputy Manager of uMgungundlovu Extension and Advisory Services at KZNDARD, thanked the University and UMDM for the opportunity and for inviting scientists, extension officers and practitioners from KZNDARD.

‘There is no doubt climate change is happening,’ said Chetty.

He referred to predictions of uMgungundlovu and Pietermaritzburg experiencing high intensity storms more frequently which was increasing requests for protection – such as hail netting – against disasters being received by officials in local government.  This was an indication that climate-related events were beginning to impact local districts.

‘That’s the purpose of us having this partnership – to look at methods of how we can progress and grow our crops, what protection we can offer, and how we can overcome the challenges of a changing climate,’ said Chetty.

‘We are committed to the programme, we’d like to give you our full support,’ he concluded.

Against the backdrop of events like the massive Durban storm in October, KZNDARD representatives emphasised the importance of the URP’s goal of introducing climate resistant agriculture, which includes new and traditional ways of growing food so that farmers have enough healthy food to feed their families.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Christine Cuénod