5. Sectors‎ > ‎


Agriculture Sector Summary

Agriculture contributes significantly to South Africa’s economy and plays a vital role in sustaining livelihoods and ensuring food security. Agriculture is highly dependent on local climatic conditions and increased changes in rainfall and temperature, as a result of climate change, will pose numerous risks to an already sensitive sector. 

Climate Change impacts on Agriculture

Changes in rainfall and temperature are predicted to have particularly severe impacts on the production of key cereal crops, and on intensive livestock practices. Changing rainfall patterns and associated drought seasons are projected to impact on water availability which is critical for the sector. Changes in climate are also projected to alter the distribution of agricultural pests and diseases which can result in huge losses for farmers. All of these impacts will affect the food security and livelihoods of South Africans, especially for rural dwellers.  

The South African Long Term Adaptation Scenarios (LTAS) report highlights the following potential climate change impacts on the agricultural sector: 
  1. Changes in traditional crop growing areas as certain areas may become more or less suitable for specific crop production.
  2. Changes in areas suitable for commercial forestry plantations.
  3. Increased exposure to agricultural pests. 
  4. Increased health risks and impacts to livestock due to decreases in rainfall which impact on herbage.
  5. Impacts on subsistence farming practices potentially impacting on food security. 

Vulnerability Assessment in the Agriculture Sector

The section below provides more detail on conducting a climate change vulnerability Assessment (VA) in the Agriculture Sector. Step 1 of the VA includes the development of indicators and more details on this step can be found here

Step 2: Assess your Exposure to the Indicators

The second step of a vulnerability assessment is to determine whether a particular indicator is relevant. This is termed "Exposure". Exposure is whether or not a particular impact will take place in your area.
The table below lists various indicators and links to materials to determine whether you are potentially at risk (exposed) to the impact. This is generally a "Yes/No" question.

Record your answers here and make note of any of the indicators above that you scored "Yes" to.

Step 3: Assess your Sensitivity to the Indicators

The third step of the vulnerability assessment asks the question, "if you are exposed, how important is the potential impact?" This is termed "sensitivity" and is generally assessed by a scale (e.g 1 to 5 or High, Medium, Low). For the purpose of the LGCCS Vulnerability Assessment Toolkit the Sensitivity Questions have been graded as High, Medium, Low.

The table below lists the same indicators as above but provides a column called "Sensitivity Considerations" to help assess how sensitive you are to particular impacts.

Record your answers here and make a note of any of the indicators above that you scored "Medium or High" to.

Step 4: Assess your Adaptive Capacity to the Indicators

The forth step in the vulnerability assessment asks the question: "If there are going to be significant impacts due to climate change, do you have the systems (policy, resources, social capital) to respond to the change?". The IPCC defines Adaptive Capacity as the "ability of a system to adjust to climate change to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences". For the purpose of the LGCCS Vulnerability Assessment Toolkit the Adaptive Capacity Questions have been graded as High, Medium, Low.

The table below lists the same indicators as above but provides a column called "Adaptive Capacity Question" which is "Do you have high, medium or low adaptive capacity (policy, institutional, social and finance) to respond to the change?".

Record your answers here and make a note of any of the indicators above that you scored "Low or Medium" to.

Key Responses to Climate Change in the Agricultural Sector 

Due to its importance to the economy and livelihoods, the agricultural sector should be prioritised in national climate change adaptation efforts, and policies and responses cascaded down to the municipal level.

Role of National Departments

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) is a key role-player in ensuring that climate change vulnerabilities are identified in the agricultural sector and that guidance and resources are provided in assisting commercial and subsistence farmers to prepare for and respond to these impacts. In 2014, DAFF prepared a Climate Change Sector Plan aimed at addressing identified sector vulnerabilities to climate change, and is in the process of developing a climate change adaptation and mitigation plan for agriculture. An important role of this department is to ensure that these plans are cascaded down to the local level. These plans should then be interrogated at the local level and context appropriate responses in the agricultural sector developed. Possible role players and agricultural responses at the local level are highlighted below:

Role of Councillors

  • Spearhead promotion of sustainable water and land resources management efforts within the municipality, with a strong focus on community awareness raising. 
  • Ensure agriculture related climate change risks are considered during the IDP review and associated project planning processes. 
  • Support municipal budget allocation of climate change related interventions. 

Role of Municipal Administration

  • Review existing policies and include enabling flexible sector plans and frameworks. 
  • Build strong institutional oversight to ensure that agriculture-related institutions build adaptive management capacity. 
  • Integrated, simplified and unambiguous policy and effective governance systems aimed minimising risks. 
  • Develop climate advisory services and early warning systems for extreme weather events. 
  • Promote Smart Agriculture efforts including sustainable natural resource management through community based programmes. 
  • Establish programmes focusing on maintenance and restoration of ecosystems. 
  • Promote sustainable farming systems including integrated crop and livestock management. 
  • Promote and support Climate resilient forestry options and diversification of community livelihood skills. 
  • Raise awareness and promote knowledge and communication on climate change and adaptation through various programmes aimed at building sustainable and resilient communities. 

Role of Individuals

  • Work together with the municipality in finding solutions for identified risks in the municipality. 
  • Play an active role in sustainable water resource use and management practice such as maintenance and climate-resilient restoration of ecosystem services. 
  • Consider sustainable farming systems including integrated crop and livestock management. 
  • Get involved in community-based programmes assisting in building resilience. 
  • Consider establishing household rain water harvesting systems. 
  • Consider the use of greywater or harvested rain water to support small scale community or household gardening water uses. 

Responses per Indicator

References Material

Use the following reference material to help assess your vulnerability to the criteria listed above 
  1. Agriculture Crop Maps
  2. Agriculture Pest Maps
  3. Wines of South Africa Maps
  4. HortGro Key Deciduous Fruit Statistics 2014
  5. LTAS Phase 1 - Technical Report - No 3 of 6 - Agriculture and Forestry
  6. AGIS Food Security Atlas