n Agrekon - Vulnerability to climate change in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa : what does the future holds for smallholder crop farmers?

Volume 55, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0303-1853
  • E-ISSN: 2078-0400
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Assessment of the level of smallholders' vulnerability to climate variability and the adaptive capacity will provide information required for adequate policy formulation for the adaptation and improvement of food security among poor farming households. This article utilised data from a survey of 223 small farming households in the Eastern Cape province, one of the poorest agrarian provinces in South Africa, to explore the exposure of smallholder farmers to climate change, their adaptive capacity and their vulnerability to climate shock across major agro-ecological zones. Data on the production of main staple foods, household assets and access to institutional facilities were analysed by means of principal component analysis. General circulation model scenarios were used with a crop model (EPIC) to explore the impact of future plausible climate patterns on farmers' income. Farmers in the Karoo zone are currently the most vulnerable to climate variability. A scenario analysis also showed that maize production in the Eastern Cape will be positively affected by climate change under both low-input and irrigated management systems, whereas potato yield will decrease. It is projected that smallholder farmers who significantly rely on maize can expect an increase of up to 45 per cent revenue by 2050 under the UKMO-HADGEM1 climate scenario if the average estimated future yields materialise. Both institutional and infrastructural support in the form of access to credit and irrigation facilities are recommended for adequate adaptation to future climate change impact, in particular climate volatility, which was not taken into account in our yield projections.

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