Food security and climate change: The role of subsistence agriculture in Genadendal, Western Cape of South Africa

Da Costa, Charissa (2018-12)

Thesis (MSc)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Food security consists of four dimensions namely, availability, access, utilisation and stability as defined by the FAO. Subsistence agriculture has the potential to supplement household food security. It can increase the amount and diversity of food that is available for consumption (i.e. food availability and utilisation). Income generated through the sale of produce can be used to access additional food (i.e. food access). Stability in production can ensure that household food security remains stable (i.e. food stability). However, subsistence farmers are particularly vulnerable to climate-related hazards such as droughts, floods and extreme temperatures. With appropriate adaptation responses, households who practice subsistence agriculture can be supported in dealing with climate-related hazards. The extensive history of Genadendal in the Overberg District Municipality, Western Cape, South Africa shows that food insecurity was a common occurrence in the past, despite efforts made to develop subsistence agriculture. The Overberg District Municipality is currently vulnerable to food insecurity in the face of climate change due to impacts on crops and livestock. Households of Genadendal have low levels of income, a high dependency ratio and low levels of formal education which can exacerbate their food insecurity. The present study aimed to investigate the role of subsistence agriculture in achieving food security in a changing climate in Genadendal by analysing (1) changes in the historical climate using meteorological data and perceptions of subsistence farmers; (2) the impact of climate-related hazards on the dimensions of food security of subsistence farmers; and (3) adaptation responses used by subsistence farmers to overcome the impacts of climate-related hazards. A combination of quantitative and qualitative methods was used, although qualitative methods formed the bulk of the study. Three meteorological datasets were analysed quantitatively to determine changes in Genadendal’s rainfall from 1960 and minimum and maximum temperature from 1993. Qualitative data were obtained from semi-structured interviews with twenty-three subsistence farmers. Questions relating to their perceptions of climate change, impacts of climate-related hazards on their food security and the use of adaptation responses were asked during the interviews. (1) According to the meteorological datasets, rainfall was highly unpredictable and varied from year to year. Increases and decreases in rainfall occurred in cycles of approximately four years at a time. Seasonal shifts in rainfall occurred with a decrease in autumn rainfall and an increase in winter and spring rainfall. Rainfall in early summer decreased but increased toward the end of summer. Maximum temperature increased but changes in minimum temperature were uncertain. Subsistence farmers perceived it to rain less often but more intensely. They perceived the start and end of the rainfall season as inconsistent and that the rainfall season became shorter. It was perceived that summers had gotten warmer and winters colder and that the length and intensity of heatwaves had increased. (2) Results show that food availability was not a concern because respondents either produced their own food and stored their produce for household use and/or had alternative sources of food. Accessing alternative sources of food was found to be somewhat challenging for some respondents due to transport challenges and the cost of purchasing food. Food utilisation and stability was found to be mostly unaffected by the impacts of climate-related hazards. (3) Subsistence farmers experienced at least some production losses due to the impacts of climate-related hazards despite implementing adaptation responses. However, none of the subsistence farmers experienced overall production losses. This is an indication that the adaptation responses support subsistence farmers in coping with the impact of climate-related hazards to some degree. However, subsistence farmers in Genadendal could not completely rely on subsistence agriculture to render them food secure. Subsistence agriculture rather played a supplementary role in achieving food security in Genadendal.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Voedselsekuriteit bestaan uit vier dimensies, naamlik beskikbaarheid, toegang, benutting en stabiliteit, soos beskryf deur die FAO. Bestaansboerdery besit die potensiaal om voedselsekuriteit aan te vul. Dit kan die hoeveelheid en diversiteit van voedsel in ‘n huishouding verhoog. Inkomste wat genereer word deur die verkoop van produksie kan gebruik word om addisionele voedsel te koop. Stabiele produksie kan die voedselsekuriteit van ‘n huishouding verseker. Bestaansboere is egter veral kwesbaar vir klimaatsverwante bedreigings soos droogte en vloede. Toepaslike aanpassings kan bestaansboere ondersteun om klimaatsverwante bedreigings te hanteer. Die geskiedenis van Genadendal in die Overberg Distrik Munisipaliteit, Wes-Kaap, Suid Afrika wys dat voedselonsekerheid algemeen was, ten spyte van pogings om bestaansboerdery te ontwikkel. Die Overberg Distrik Munisipaliteit is tans kwesbaar vir voedselonsekerheid in die konteks van klimaatsverandering. Baie huishoudings in Genadendal het lae vlakke van inkomste en formele opvoeding en hoë afhanklikheidsverhoudings wat hul voedselonsekerheid kan vererger. Die huidige studie se doel was om die rol van bestaansboerdery in die behoud van voedselsekuriteit binne die konteks van ‘n veranderende klimaat te ondersoek deur (1) veranderinge in die historiese klimaat te analiseer deur die gebruik van meteorologiese data en persepsies van bestaansboere; (2) die impak van klimaatsverwante bedreigings op die dimensies van voedselsekuriteit; en (3) aanpassings wat deur bestaansboere gemaak was ten opsigte van klimaatsverandering. ‘n Kombinasie van kwalitatiewe en kwantitatiewe metodes was gebruik. Drie meteorologiese datastelle was geanaliseer om veranderinge in Genadendal se reënval vanaf 1960 en temperatuur vanaf 1993 te bepaal. Onderhoude was gedoen met drie-en-twintig bestaansboere om inligting oor hul persepsies van klimaatverandering, die impakte daarvan en hul aanpassings uit te vind. (1) Volgens die meteorologiese datastelle was die reënval hoogs onvoorspelbaar en gevarieerd van jaar tot jaar. Toename en afname in reënval gebeur in siklusse van vier jaar op ‘n slag. Seisoenale verskuiwings in reënval het gebeur met afname in herfs reënval en toename in winter en lente reënval. Reënval in vroeë somer het afgeneem, maar verhoog teenoor die einde van die somer. Maksimum temperature het verhoog, maar veranderinge in minimum temperature was onseker. Bestaansboere het waargeneem dat dit minder gereeld reën, maar harder reën. Hul het waargeneem dat die begin en einde van die reënseisoen onvoorspelbaar geraak het, maar dat die reënseisoen wel verkort het.. Dit was ook waargeneem dat somers warmer en winters kouer geword het en dat die lengte en intensiteit van hittegolwe verhoog het. (2) Resultate wys dat voedsel beskikbaarheid nie ‘n bekommernis was nie, omdat respondente óf hul eie voedsel geproduseer het, óf voedsel by alternatiewe bronne gekry het. Toegang tot alternatiewe bronne van voedsel was soms uitdagend vir sommige respondente as gevolg van vervoer uitdagings en koste van die aankoop van voedsel. Voedsel benutting en stabiliteit was meestal onaangeraak deur klimaatsverwante bedreigings. (3) Bestaansboere het wel in sommige aspekte ‘n afname in produksie ervaar as gevolg van klimaatsverwante bedreigings, ten spyte van aanpassings wat geïmplementeer was. Nie een van die bestaansboere het egter ‘n algehele afname in produksie ervaar nie. Dit is ‘n aanduiding dat die aanpassings wat deur bestaansboere gemaak was hulle tot 'n sekere mate ondersteun het. Bestaansboere in Genadendal kon egter nie heeltemal staatmaak op bestaansboerdery vir voedselsekuriteit nie. Bestaansboerdery in Genadendal het eerder ‘n aanvullende rol in die bereik van voedselsekuriteit gespeel.

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