Many small-scale farmers inherently adopt a "low-input, low-return, risk avoidance strategy" to farming, particularly when growing crops. Crops, especially, are at the mercy of ... Read more
Soil moisture refers to the amount of water found between soil particles. It is important for soil science, hydrology and agricultural sciences since soil moisture determines how water moves through the soil (Groundwater Recharge). The movement of water through the soil, and the dissolving of salts in soil water, affects the soil chemistry through the addition or removal of nutrients that plants use for growth. Soil moisture, therefore, plays a role in the movement and availability of nutrients required by plants for growth.
Why is it important to have information on soil moisture?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides Soil Moisture Content forecasts as part of their Global Forecast System (GFS). Data is provided hourly for up to 16 days in advance providing useful information on the possible increase or decrease of soil moisture. The data is not only useful for forecasting, but can also provide a useful indicator of what is happening from month to month in a similar fashion to NDVI (Normalised Difference Vegetation Index) which is used for drought monitoring.
Figures 1 to 3 show the average soil Moisture for June, July and August. Higher soil moisture is present in the Winter Rainfall areas because of normal seasonal rainfall, while the rest of the country shows low soil moisture as a result of little to no rain during the winter months.
Soil moisture data is usually expressed as a fraction, but the data was normalised using the Field Capacity and Wilting Point information for the dataset. Field Capacity refers to the maximum amount of water that soil can hold after excess water has drained away. Wilting Point refers to the minimum soil moisture needed for a plant not to wilt. If the soil moisture drops below this point, a plant cannot recover its turgidity and it will then wilt. In the soil moisture maps below (figures 1-3), 100% indicates Field Capacity or the saturation of the soil, while 0% highlights the wilting point. Areas indicated in grey are where plants will not be able to recover as a result of drought or low soil moisture.
Figure 1: Soil Moisture for June 2018 expressed as a percentage.
Figure 2: Soil Moisture for July 2018 expressed as a percentage.
Figure 3: Soil Moisture for August 2018 expressed as a percentage.
Figures 1-3 are a good indication of areas of concern with regards to drought, however, comparing the data monthly can also highlight areas that have improved or where conditions have deteriorated. Examples of these comparisons can be seen in figures 4 & 5 below. Increases in soil moisture between months are indicated in the blue colours, while decreases in soil moisture are indicated in red colours. The beige colours reflect little to no change.
Figure 4: Soil Moisture difference between June and July 2018 expressed as a percentage.
Figure 5: Soil Moisture difference between July and August 2018 expressed as a percentage.
With the winter rainfall season slowly coming to an end, there is a massive contrast between figures 4 and 5. The June/July comparison shows an increase of soil moisture as a result of good rainfall, while the July/August comparison shows a decrease over the wheat growing areas of the Western Cape. Despite this decrease, figure 3 shows that the average soil moisture for the area is between 20%-40%, however, this provides a clear warning of areas and crops that will be under severe pressure if they do not receive good rainfall in September.
Soil moisture information is becoming more accessible and used all over the world because of its benefits to agriculture. It also provides a useful measure for early warning systems such as drought detection and flood warnings. Soil moisture data, as provided by NOAA GFS and other satellite derived systems is another example of how technology is used to monitor and manage our natural resources.
Many small-scale farmers inherently adopt a "low-input, low-return, risk avoidance strategy" to farming, particularly when growing crops. Crops, especially, are at the mercy of ... Read more
Many small-scale farmers inherently adopt a "low-input, low-return, risk avoidance strategy" to farming, particularly when growing crops. Crops, especially, are at the mercy of environmental extremes such as droughts, floods and outbreak of pests and disease. Small-scale farmers foresee large potential losses from these threats if they make substantial investments in new crop seed, chemicals and equipment, and consequently their approach is to limit inputs and only expect, or hope, to harvest enough to subsist; only in extreme conditions are they unable feed themselves.
They adopt this strategy despite the fact that they are well-versed and aware of the benefits to be gained from new production practices and from improved inputs, but this strategy is a trap for them; they may be able to sustain the strategy, but only at a subsistence level. When the strategy fails they have no support or have to turn to state assistance. The net result is they are trapped in an on-going cycle of subsistence production and poverty.
Circumstances are however changing because many business leaders, financiers and marketers in the agricultural sector are aware of this and are cognisant of the latent potential of the small-scale farmer. Small-scale farmers need to, and will, play an important role in agricultural production in the future.
Models are being proposed to improve the performance of small-scale farmers and ensure a more equitable distribution of returns, more price stability in the market, better coordination between farmers and more affordable, easier access to finance. A first step to financing these improved production practices is to provide stability for both parties in the lending process. That is, there must be mutual reassurance, trust and support between the lenders (banks) and borrowers (farmers). A financing tool that is increasingly being used to achieve this stability is crop insurance against weather extremes.
South Africa has over 450 000 emerging and small-scale farmers and close to 40 000 large commercial farmers. While the latter has traditionally enjoyed access to financing and insurance, emerging farmers who borrow money often find themselves financially exposed when faced with adversities; they then tend to borrow more, or leave agriculture permanently.
Still dependent on rain cycles, South Africa's small-scale farmers are the most vulnerable to drought conditions. The recent prolonged drought has seen small-farmers accumulate more debt without access to, or adequate knowledge of, risk management products that could have carried them through these weather extremes.
To address this deficiency the Land Bank Insurance Company (LBIC), a division of the Land Bank, is developing crop insurance products for small-scale farmers. Part of the programme is to train brokers to operate in the rural areas and engage the farmers.
"We strongly believe there is room to develop black brokers who can reach out to the small farmers in remote parts of the country, where established brokers might see little or no market," said Mr. Nondumo, the Sales and Distribution Executive Manager.
He noted that losses in this sector were primarily a result of adverse weather conditions and the severity of such events had only increased recently.
"Smaller, uninsured black farmers are left with no choice, but to approach the banks for further credit - but credit is not a tool to deal with weather events, - insurance is. It is a critical part of ensuring the long-term stability of the farmer," said Nondumo.
"Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings". Nelson Mandela Poverty is more pervasive in the rural areas - the majority... Read more
"Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings". Nelson Mandela
Poverty is more pervasive in the rural areas - the majority of the world's poor live in rural areas - poverty is the biggest export of the rural areas to the cities of the developing world, including South Africa. It appears to be an almost insurmountable problem for the world's governments, NGO's and international humanitarian agencies, as they pour more and more resources into a seemingly bottomless rural vacuum with often very little to show for all their effort.
The call to "empower the poor to reduce rural poverty" is not new, but often appears to be hard to be grasped by many role players, and even harder to be implemented by them.
"Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and decent life." Nelson Mandela
There is consensus that agriculture remains one of the best vehicles to reduce rural poverty and people living in the rural areas mostly have some form of agricultural background or engage in agricultural production and agricultural related activities, often just to stay alive.
The biggest challenge faced by agriculture as a rural poverty game-changer is the lack of visible success. Despite the contribution of agriculture to livelihoods in the rural areas, living conditions have not changed, thus continuing the belief by many that agriculture is an industry for unskilled people with low expectations. This perception has had a long-term negative impact on the youth in these communities - the main reason why they abandon their farming communities in search of better opportunities in the cities. A paradigm shift is therefore required - people need to realise that development starts from within. Success attracts success, and the achievements of rural farmers and farming communities will draw the attention of others in the communities and eventually investors and other support, that will in turn influence the rural youth and others to remain and to farm with more confidence and believe. That believe will be the seed that will grow to empowerment and self-sufficiency. Only then will people take control of their own destiny, and will they demand support for success, rather than assistance to survive, from government.
"Only by putting the poorest in charge of their own lives and destinies, will absolute poverty and deprivation be removed from the face of the earth." Sir Fazle Hasan
An essential ingredient for taking control with self-confidence to farm successfully, is information. Information about the total range of agricultural production practices, from crop selection and soil testing, right through to harvesting, value adding, markets and marketing are crucial and will facilitate the empowerment of rural communities to work and live successfully. This first step will lead many to embrace development and technology, support programmes, new technologies and innovations - leading to sustained growth. An excellent example of such an information application is AgriSuite Neo, a free app available from Google Play, by Manstrat AIS.
Agricultural growth can and will reduce rural poverty, and initial success will invariably lead to access to financial and capital resources and support; skills improvement and job creation - all contributing to better livelihoods.
It is indeed better to give people the opportunity to make a living, rather than helping them, thus continuing their dependency.
Ending poverty is a central goal of countries, especially developing countries, around the world. According to estimates, more than 1.3 billion people are living on less than... Read more
Ending poverty is a central goal of countries, especially developing countries, around the world. According to estimates, more than 1.3 billion people are living on less than R 20.00 per day - classified as extreme poverty. Of the latter, 75 % live in rural areas, while 50 % of these people are smallholder farmers. The rural poor to a large extent depend on agriculture for their livelihoods - an unsurmountable challenge for most.
The livestock sector could play a bigger role in uplifting poor rural households with its direct value in the provision of food. Indirectly livestock also serve in the provision of draught power, organic fertiliser and fuels, hides, the sale of animals and animal products as a regular income or occasional sale to meet community or household needs.
Smallholder livestock production is largely based on family farming practices and play an important role in food security and employment creation in rural communities. To be successful, government and stakeholders should cooperate with rural development programmes, while recognising the potential contribution of smallholders in in all these efforts.
Challenges that have to be met when planning projects include:
Programmes and projects can help develop livestock production on smallholder farms. However, the above situations must be analysed and taken into consideration before implementing any programme. Before transferring technologies, appropriate technologies must be developed with these factors in mind to be of any benefit. From a rural development perspective, it is also important to consider the lives of the people affected by these programmes and their farming situations. These farmers should not only be included but also given decision-making powers if these programmes are to have any positive effect in reducing rural poverty.
Much has been discussed, debated and written about climate change, but the unassailable fact is that weather extremes are occurring with greater annual frequency... Read more
Much has been discussed, debated and written about climate change, but the unassailable fact is that weather extremes are occurring with greater annual frequency. At least three of the hottest years on record have been in the last decade, and there have been droughts and severe storms of greater intensity. Underlying all this is the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, which are over 400 ppm, the highest level in over 400 000 years, having risen 35% in the last 60 years.
The question is how will this affect crop growth and production, in the future? Being a staple food in southern Africa, maize was selected as the model to investigate. Historical climatic data (over 20 years) was used to compile a growth-model for maize, and the results were compared with actual maize production at various locations across the country. Once the model was verified, the climatic data was changed to reflect the predicted future climate changes.
The two parameters having a dominant effect on climate change are temperature and rainfall, which significantly determine plant growth. Climate models have suggested that temperatures across southern Africa could increase by up to 3°C between now and 2050, while rainfall could decrease by 10%. These changes were applied to the maize growth-model; the current maize production was then compared with the potential future production (up to 2050), as shown below:
Over the whole country, it was estimated that there could be a decrease of 30% in potential maize production. In this comparison it was assumed that varieties and production practices would remain the same; for obvious reasons, this scenario is not acceptable, and the implementation of strategies for mitigating this, is necessary.
Conservation agriculture (CA), aimed at conserving soil moisture, becomes increasingly important, as do numerous other production practices. Of most importance, however, is the breeding of heat and drought tolerance in maize. Conventional breeding has already made significant gains in transferring tolerance to drought stress to many maize lines. There is now unprecedented attention being given to producing drought and heat tolerant maize varieties using all conventional, molecular and transgenic breeding techniques.
The effect of climate change on future crop production presents many sources of uncertainty, and consequently, the selection of mitigation strategies is, in reality, an exercise in risk management. It is difficult to evaluate different strategies because of the uncertainty, and a broad risk-management approach must be used to enable a range of outcomes to be examined.
Despite this argument, the approach already described to mitigate increasing drought and temperature stress in maize, through crop breeding and changes in production practices, is soundly based in the longer-term. However, in the short-term intense and extreme events, such as heat-waves, droughts and storms, still present a high level of uncertainty and this requires a broad-based mitigation strategy. An integral part of this strategy is the use of insurance, an industry which is developing up-to-date predictive tools and products to for the agricultural sector.
Role players need to accept the reality of the situation and expect changes in crop production, which are likely to be more extreme in some locations than others. With appropriate preparation, we can minimise the effects of extreme weather events.
Livestock is an important part of many farming businesses as a significant contributor to family livelihoods in South Africa, while at the same time carrying significant weight as an... Read more
Livestock is an important part of many farming businesses as a significant contributor to family livelihoods in South Africa, while at the same time carrying significant weight as an asset in cultural terms, in many rural areas. Unfortunately, for many of them, possessing livestock makes them almost certain victims of stock theft - a crime that persists in many parts of our country. A crime that poses a severe threat to growth and sustainability as livestock (working capital), has to be replaced at high cost on an almost continuous basis.
While livestock insurance is an available option, it is costly, and something that few can afford.
In order to protect themselves, farmers need to be careful and take all necessary precautions to safeguard their livestock to minimise their risk. This may include:
Drought refers to a period of water scarcity and is driven in South Africa by natural climate variability. Farmers produce in a continuous state of uncertainty and risk, exacerbated by... Read more
Drought refers to a period of water scarcity and is driven in South Africa by natural climate variability. Farmers produce in a continuous state of uncertainty and risk, exacerbated by the unpredictability of our climate. Successful producers are those who implement risk management, response farming technologies, and water conservation practices.
Drought events put severe pressure on South Africa's already limited water resources. Grazing capacity and crop production vary significantly from year to year due to inter-seasonal climate variability. Droughts have an adverse effect on overall food production and food security.
Safeguarding water resources is the first step in the process of adaptation that may include the development and use of alternative water resources, including desalinisation of sea water, sinking of boreholes, building canals to redirect water and the construction of dams. The recycling of water, rehabilitation and protection of wetlands and the prevention of water pollution is critical for the safeguarding of water resources during droughts. In extreme drought events, the implementation of water restrictions often become necessary.
Although drought characteristics may vary from region to region, it occurs in all climate zones throughout the world. Even though some areas are arid with low mean annual rainfall, drought refers to a state of negative deviation from the norm.
The Anthropocene, our current geological age is viewed as the period in which human activity has been the dominant influence on the climate and environment. Industrialisation has, amongst other things, led to an increased human population - both factors that have contributed to the rise in CO2 levels in the atmosphere. And that in turn, has led to increases in global temperatures. Since the 1950's, human influence on the climate and the environment increased on a massive scale.
Human influence in droughts in the Anthropocene is real. After the Guadiana River in Spain had been dry for more than 30 years, farmers in the area blamed the drought, while scientists blamed groundwater extraction by the farmers. It was found that the drying up of the river and a major wetland in the area was a combination of both. Scientists concluded that the extraction of groundwater increased the severity of the drought in the area by four to six times, which demonstrated how, in this instance human activity influenced the severity of the drought.
Between 2015 and 2016, during a severe drought in California, more than 3 000 boreholes were sunk to help in dealing with water shortages. The drastic increase in the utilisation of the groundwater allowed agricultural production to continue unabated, while the severity of the drought wasn't visible at all. However, over time, as borehole-levels became critically low and compelled them to drill still deeper, the uncontrolled and intensified effects of the groundwater utilisation became clear.
The Anthropocene and Cape Town
Cape Town has become the latest example of 'Drought in the Anthropocene'. Dam levels are critically low as a result of a severe multi-year drought and increased usage over time. Since 1995, Cape Town has grown by nearly 80%, putting its already limited water resources further under pressure.
Evidence shows that scientists already warned authorities years (15-20) ago that the uncontrolled development of Cape Town was placing water sources under severe pressure. As not enough was done in this regard throughout the years, the result was 'Day Zero' - the day on which the taps in the city would eventually run dry. Human activity played a crucial part in the severity of the drought in Cape Town - both due to the lack of pro-active measures taken, as well as the increased development of the region over the last 20 years. Groundwater is seen as one of the solutions to the water shortage by the authorities in Cape Town. The Guadiana River and California examples, however, show that using groundwater should be done sustainably to prevent the drought becoming even worse.
In the Anthropocene, drought is more than just a natural hazard, but a complex interaction between water scarcity and people. To avoid the predicament of Cape Town happening in the rest of South Africa, we need to change to an approach of protecting and saving our water resources on a national scale. We can no longer waste the little water that we have, and we need to invest in sustainable water use and management to protect this valuable/scarce resource.
Although it is difficult to imagine just one day without water, it has become a real threat to the Western Cape, as the possibility of Day Zero approaches. Unless the region ... Read more
Although it is difficult to imagine just one day without water, it has become a real threat to the Western Cape, as the possibility of Day Zero approaches. Unless the region receives sufficient rainfall during this coming winter, they may not avoid a "Day Zero scenario" in 2019. While the date has been moved forward more than once from the first deadline, to a somewhat vague 2019, water restrictions continue in the drought-stricken area.
Water is the essence of life - every living organism needs water to survive. For farmers, water plays an important role in the production and potential of a farm. Farmers use water for crop irrigation; livestock drinking water; cleaning stalls and equipment; mixing feeds, dips and fertilisers; hygiene and sanitary control; cooling systems; dust control, and many other functions. An estimated 70% of all earth's fresh water goes to agriculture, while as much as 60% of it gets wasted through runoff and evapotranspiration.
With the ongoing drought in the Western Cape, farmers have had to cut their water utilisation levels dramatically. The National Water Act (No. 36 of 1998) regulates water usage, and to date, the region's farmers have already cut back more than 60% of their water use.
Considering that the whole of South Africa is classified as an arid country prone to droughts, stopping unnecessary water wastage, should become a national project. We should constantly conserve water - not just when a severe drought takes hold of the country. Water constraints are likely to increase, as growing populations and urban development, will eventually compete for water resources with agriculture.
So how can farmers increase water use efficiency and reduce wastage?
Crop farmers must irrigate more efficiently by optimising water amounts like substituting drip irrigation with other more intensive systems. They can further use mulch and shading to reduce soil water evaporation; limit weeds and invasive plants; practice no tilling farming methods; and prevent and limit soil erosion. Growing more water-efficient crops and crops suited to dry climates will also limit water usage by producers, while rainwater can also be harvested and used for irrigation.
Livestock farmers should repair water-trough leaks immediately and adjust floats and can keep water in cooler areas where possible, prevent animals from entering water troughs, and check water reserves and storage tanks for leaks. Where possible, farmers should recycle water; brush and sweep mud and waste in their stalls and dairy parlours instead of just washing them down with hoses. Farmers should also consider selecting animals that are able to adapt to the drier conditions of our country.
Like the farmers in the Western Cape who have done much to reduce their water usage thus far, the rest of us will need to continue finding ways and means to use water more efficiently to prevent a Day Zero scenario from occurring.
"Day Zero" - Capetonians were warned was the day when the city and the area were going to run out of water - has now been moved forward to 2019. The extension of Day Zero was mainly due to inhabitants and farmers in the... Read more
"Day Zero" - Capetonians were warned was the day when the city and the area were going to run out of water - has now been moved forward to 2019. The extension of Day Zero was mainly due to inhabitants and farmers in the area cooperating to drastically curtail their water usage. The public, in general, was quick to adapt to the 50 litres per person per day limit, but those who bear the brunt of the restrictions, are mostly farmers and some businesses in the area.
"The World Meteorological Organization" estimates that two-thirds of the people on the planet will face periodic or frequent water shortages by 2025. The Western Cape region was one of the first areas to experience shortages of this magnitude - many dams and reservoirs are dry or almost dry - as a result of a drought that has been going for almost three years.
Farming in South Africa is not easy due to its low, and irregular rainfall. In the Western Cape, the annual rainfall varies considerably - from 1 000 mm in some mountainous areas to as little as 150 mm in parts of the Karoo. Winter rainfall in the Cape Town area where wine, deciduous fruit, citrus, grain, fynbos are amongst the best known agricultural produce, is around 500 mm. Due to the drought, farming in the area, water utilisation for irrigation and other farming uses, is closely monitored.
Agriculture water usage in Cape Town has dropped significantly, and since the beginning of 2018 the use of water by farmers has decreased by 51% (268 million litres per day) from major dams, and it is expected to drop to 31% (160 million litres per day), with a hopeful bonus of another 10% (50 million litres per day) in the near future. Water restrictions will have and expected adverse effect on the volumes produced, but many wine producers believe that quality will not be adversely affected, and may, in some cases even be higher than the normal. There are however areas where production volumes of wine and fruit are expected to fall by as much as 30%. Damage to trees and vines seem limited, but there will be economic losses in the short term.
Rapid population growth and climate change have played vital roles in the Day Zero challenge. Climate change is showing its impact through prolonged droughts. Experts warn of ever-increasing water shortages throughout the world, and South Africa as a whole is no exception. All of us are therefore responsible to control our water consumption and not waste or allow the wastage of this precious commodity, as we are living and working with the threat of a Day Zero in the future hanging over our collective heads.
The Western Cape Municipality have urge water consumption reduction by all stakeholders to push back Day Zero. Agricultural stakeholders can contribute to this by using water more efficiently sustaining production, but reducing overall water use and to avoid the dreaded Day Zero.
During the last couple of months, the GIS Group at Manstrat focused their research on short term and long-term forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). January 2018... Read more
During the last couple of months, the GIS Group at Manstrat focused their research on short term and long-term forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). January 2018 data from the NOAA Climate Forecast System (CFS) was used to predict expected rainfall for February. This article highlights the accuracy of the predictions by comparing it to the actual rainfall experienced.
Figure 1: Predicted Rainfall for February 2018 (Data sourced from NOAA CFS on 1 January 2018)
The Predicted Rainfall map was calculated using NOAA GFS data and comparing it with the long-term average and presented in map format - Figure 1. The map shows those areas expecting above-normal rainfall (blue) and below-normal rainfall (red). Figure 1, shows expected rainfall:
Figure 2: Satellite Derived Rainfall (Data sourced from NOAA: Africa Data Archive)
The map shows those areas that received above-normal rainfall (green to blue blocks) and below-normal rainfall (yellow to brown blocks) in terms of the archived long-term data:
Figure 3: Map showing areas where both predicted rainfall and actual rainfall correspond.
Areas where prediction data corresponded with actual rainfall data Figure 3:
Figure 4: The map indicates those areas where both predicted rainfall and actual rainfall did not correspond.
Figure 5: The map highlights areas of either normal predicted rainfall and normal measured rainfall but that deviate towards below or above-normal predicted or measured rainfall.
Long-range predictions and measured rainfall, are classified into three classes:
Figure 5 marks those areas that were predicted and measured as normal rainfall but deviated either to wet or dry conditions
NOAA CFS predictions offered more correct predictions to incorrect ones, but there were lots of deviations from normal rainfall predictions and measurements. To improve the accuracy and quality of future long-range predictions we will focus on extreme conditions only. Long-term predictions should, for obvious reasons be used with caution, and only used as a warning guide to extreme events such as possible droughts or floods.
Post-harvest food loss is amongst the many challenges in agriculture contributing to food insecurity. The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that as much as one-third of the food produced globally for human consumption is lost or... Read more
Post-harvest food loss is amongst the many challenges in agriculture contributing to food insecurity. The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that as much as one-third of the food produced globally for human consumption is lost or wasted along the supply chain - and even higher in Africa - between 30% and 50%. This significant toll on food security translates back to lost production resources (land, water, energy, inputs and income), with a direct adverse effect on food security, nutrition, and economic stability. Avoiding post-harvest losses is therefore critical in ensuring food and income security, from household to national levels.
Best-practice post-harvest handling calls for the application of appropriate practices and technologies, from harvesting to the distribution of food products. Food losses are mostly the result of poor or wrong practices during production, harvesting, handling, storage, packaging, transportation, and processing.
The decline of fresh produce, by nature perishable, starts with the removal of the product from the mother plant's active metabolism. The rate of decline, however, is intensified by poor post-harvest handling, transport, storage etc.
Training, of course, plays an essential role in the process. Farmers need to be taught the importance of post-harvest handling, coupled with the efficient application of quality control and hands-on management of workers, who are also trained and versed in their specific tasks - harvesting, handling, grading, sizing and packing. Knowledge and application.
When adding improved post-harvest practices to other capabilities like the application of maturity indexes of commodities, it will give farmers added competitive advantages - all improving the final output. At the same time, investment in infrastructure that will lead to the implementation of sound harvest and storage practices will also improve the chances of higher incomes through higher sellable outputs.
Reducing post-harvest losses will increase food availability while saving farmer's input resources. With more sustainable outputs, farmers will become more competitive in the broader markets, minimising constant food-security concerns.
The recent outbreak of avian influenza in South Africa caused widespread losses in the poultry egg industries. The current South Africa outbreak of Listeriosis is the biggest outbreak of the disease on record... Read more
The recent outbreak of avian influenza in South Africa caused widespread losses in the poultry egg industries. The current South Africa outbreak of Listeriosis is the biggest outbreak of the disease on record globally, and with the source yet to be discovered, poses an additional threat to the human food chain.
The strain of avian influenza that wreaked havoc in the poultry industry from June 2017 was not detected in humans. This strain (H5N8) is a highly pathogenic that spread rapidly through several provinces by migratory wild birds and farmers were forced to cull thousands of their birds, leading to substantial losses to producers - estimated at R954 million.
Listeriosis is a food-borne disease caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes and is found in soil, water and vegetation. Eating uncooked animal products and unpasteurised milk increases the risk of contracting Listeriosis by humans. The high number of confirmed laboratory cases (872 with 164 deaths) increases the urgent need to find the source of the disease.
In the recent past, we have also experienced other disease outbreaks: In August 2017, a Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak occurred in the Giyani Local Municipality, while African Swine Fever appeared in the Free State and North West during 2016. Brucellosis, a zoonotic disease, occurs yearly throughout the province, not only threatening the human food chain, but also human health.
These "Controlled" diseases affect South Africa's trade industry negatively while threats to the human food chain have repercussions, including threatening food security and exacerbating poverty.
When animals become sick, it causes not only a loss in production to producers but has an economic and social impact. Sick animals stop producing milk, eggs and meat and losing their young - eliminating or harming next generations. Animal disease means less food for people and resultant malnutrition and health issues. International trade is affected and often halted where animal diseases threaten the safety of people and animals in other countries.
Extension officers have a valuable role in helping farmers guard against animal diseases that could potentially threaten the food chain. Using Extension Suite online, extension officers have access to information on animal diseases, including controlled and notifiable diseases, with information about their nearest available state and private veterinarians. Biosecurity measures help tremendously in disease control, and by using the guidelines available on ESO in conjunction with other health and management programmes, Extension officers can assist and support farmers right there on the farm to guard against diseases that have wide implications that threaten the human food chain.
Food is required as a source of energy by all living organisms to grow, reproduce and survive and humans are an integral part of the food network. The first step in the food chain is the capturing... Read more
Food is required as a source of energy by all living organisms to grow, reproduce and survive and humans are an integral part of the food network.
The first step in the food chain is the capturing of solar energy by plants (primary producers) through photosynthesis. Herbivores (primary consumers) consume plants, and omnivores (secondary consumers) and carnivores (tertiary consumers), consume herbivores. At each step of this food chain 90% of the energy is lost for the next consumer; that is, herbivores receive about 10% of the energy in plants, omnivores 1% and carnivores 0.1%, of the original energy.
Consider this in the context that solar energy is constant - that is, the energy captured by plants has to be shared by all animal species, including humans.
Until 15 000 years ago humans obtained food by hunting and gathering. With the passing of the last ice-age, more favourable climatic conditions triggered the start of agricultural production. The human population began to increase, slowly at first, but exponentially in the last few centuries (75% of the increase has been in the previous 100 years).
To feed the population not only is energy required from plants, but indirectly fossil energy is needed for processing and supporting other activities (fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas, can be considered a bank of solar energy in the soil, accumulated over millions of years, which is not renewable). This handy resource lead to unprecedented levels of activity and use of energy, much of it not renewable. One consequence is the rise in CO2 levels, one of the drivers of climate change. CO2 levels increased from 280 ppm to 400 ppm in the last 50 years; above 300 ppm is unprecedented for the last 400 000 years.
How does this affect the human food chain?
Naturally, consuming food from primary producers (plants) expend less energy in the food chain, compared to the consumption of animals.
Ecologists have a statistical method ranking species within the food chain. Primary producers (plants) are on a level of 1.0 while a pure predator scores 5.0. A diet of half plants and half meat would score 2.5; worldwide humans are on a level of 2.21, but there are great variations between regions from 2.0 (for a 96% plant-based diet) to 2.6.
The significant trend is, however, that as people become more affluent, they eat more meat and fewer vegetables. There have been massive increases in meat consumption in developing countries. This implies more significant quantities of water used, more CO2 emissions, more trash generated from processing, all with dire consequences to the environment.
Unfortunately, there are no obvious and easy solutions. Various novel meat sources have been investigated, meat-tax regulations have been proposed, and in wealthy countries, the demand for meat has decreased for health reasons. Overall, developing sources of renewable energy will help, and are an integral part of the strategy.
Attention must be maintained on the human food chain. By analysing the intricacies of the human food chain some useful and practical solutions to food security, obesity, malnutrition and environmental cost in the agricultural industry, may become apparent.
Manstrat GIS research, over the last 6 months, focussed mainly on short-term (daily - up to 16 days), and long-term (monthly predictions - up to 12 months) weather predictions. Short term predictions... Read more
Manstrat GIS research, over the last 6 months, focussed mainly on short-term (daily - up to 16 days), and long-term (monthly predictions - up to 12 months) weather predictions. Short term predictions are part of our weekly weather forecast publication Mutsho.
Due to the inherent nature of long-term predictions, validation of data takes place over longer periods. The longer the term of any weather prediction, the less accurate it becomes. One of the factors influencing the accuracy of predictions is of course climate change. All maps published here should therefore also be interpreted in the context of the uncertainties of long term predictions. Maps were sourced from data obtained on 1 December 2017 from the NOAA Climate Forecast System (CFS).
Figure 1: Average Rainfall for January
Figure 2: Predicted Rainfall for January 2018
To simplify the interpretation of the maps in this article, the first dark shade of green - the 50 to 75 mm cut-off - is used as our reference line, referred to as the 50mm isohyet (a line used in meteorology that links areas with equal rainfall to one another).
Using the 50mm isohyet as a reference line, one can notice the differences between figures 1 and 2. In the January Average Map (figure 1) the line runs from just inside the Northern Cape, south-westward through the Free State into the Eastern Cape. Also clear, is that the average rainfall for January across the summer rainfall region is between 50 to 100 mm with the green colours dominating.
Looking at figure 2, it is clear to see that the western areas of the summer rainfall regions will be drier in January compared to the eastern regions. The Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga will all receive more rainfall than normal while the north west, south western Free State and western Northern Cape will remain drier.
Figure 3: Average Rainfall for February
Figure 4: Predicted Rainfall for February 2018
The average rainfall for February is very much like January's average rainfall, with the exception of parts of Limpopo expected to be drier. Looking at the average rainfall (Figure 3) and predicted rainfall for February 2018 (Figure 4), it seems these areas in Limpopo, extending into North West will be much drier. Northern KwaZulu-Natal will also be drier than normal. On the positive side, some areas indicated in green over the Northern Cape will receive more rainfall. More rain is expected over southern KwaZulu-Natal and the northern Eastern Cape.
Figure 5: Average Rainfall for March
Figure 6: Predicted Rainfall for March 2018
Comparing the maps in figures 5 and 6 shows a positive rainfall month in March. Most areas will receive their normal rainfall for the month, but an area stretching from the North West, through the central Free State into northern Eastern Cape and Southern KwaZulu-Natal might receive more rainfall than normal. The only area of concern is the yellow area over northern Gauteng and the brown colours over parts of Limpopo indicating below-normal rainfall. Above normal rainfall is also expected over the Western Cape.
Figure 7: Latest ENSO forecast from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
The general pattern of normal to above normal rainfall over the summer rainfall region for January 2018 to March 2018 falls within the short period of La-Nina conditions over the Pacific Ocean. Periods of below normal rainfall in South Africa are often linked with the El Nino event while above normal rainfall is linked to La Nina.
The long-range prediction data shows huge promise for operational implementation. However, data restrictions plus the effect of climate change on accuracy of predictions need to be kept in mind - compelling users to use the data as a guideline, and once implemented, should be updated on a regular basis.
Food is the one commodity that both man and animals need to survive. The supply of food through agribusinesses is, even in our current economic environment where agricultural inputs have become costly, remain pivotal, and continue to provide business opportunities to agricultural... Read more
Food is the one commodity that both man and animals need to survive. The supply of food through agribusinesses is, even in our current economic environment where agricultural inputs have become costly, remain pivotal, and continue to provide business opportunities to agricultural entrepreneurs. Added to this are industries - manufacturing and processing - that depend on agribusiness for raw material. Agribusiness, especially in the developing world, has all the potential of an essential driver of economic growth in rural areas. Many opportunities exist in South Africa for agribusinesses. Admittedly financial means, business skills, knowledge and experience play crucial roles, but are not always available to all rural citizens.
Agribusiness refers to the business of agricultural production and is a generic term for a range of businesses involved in the food production chain. Agribusinesses include all levels of commercial farming, seed supply, manure, fertilisers and agri-chemicals, farm machinery, distribution, wholesale and retail sales, processing, research and development, marketing and financing of the agro-allied industry. The value chain in the agribusiness industry, from food production to processing and marketing, provides considerable opportunities to entrepreneurs.
For young entrepreneurs to succeed, hard work and persistence are a good start. However, to succeed, they need to be armed, not only with relevant information and appropriate skills, but also a strong drive and clear goals. Attributes that set great successful entrepreneurs apart include passion, perseverance, good communication skills, open-mindedness, a positive attitude, and a drive to overcome failures and to be successful.
Agribusiness, as with any other business, is fraught with uncertainties and risks. Entrepreneurs start off small, taking smaller risks that provide essential and productive lessons leading to growth - and higher risks. It is at the emerging stage that many entrepreneurs get demoralised by circumstances they feel are out of their control. Lack of start-up funds primarily chained to the high risk of a new agricultural business venture, pose considerable threats. However, with determination and commitment, well-driven entrepreneurs do get past this stage and succeed. In the process, they need to be aware of, and seek access to, all available help.
Extension Suite Online® is a web-based decision support system giving solutions about Animal and Plant production, and areal Climatic and Agricultural Suppliers' information. ESO is freely available to farmers through their local Provincial Agricultural Extension Practitioners. The system empowers these officials to assist those who want to leave the world of subsistence for the wider spectrum of agribusiness. Agriculture is not supposed to be the poor's occupation but rather a profession for individuals who are not afraid to dream, fail and take significant risks.
"The road to success and the road to failure are almost exactly the same." - Colin R. Davis