BRC Land Livestock Adaptation
Surviving climate change
Climate change projections have indicated that the Namakwa District, in the Northern Cape, will be subject to increasing temperatures and changing rainfall patterns, more specifically droughts, seasonal shifts and storm-related disaster events. The area has already seen a 2 degrees Celsius increase in mean temperatures over the past 50 years, and it is predicted that it will become hotter and drier. Warming, and the associated increase in the number of extremely warm days, is set to impact evaporation rates and water availability. This is a concern as water is already scarce in Namakwa.
The rural Leliefontein community in the Namakwa District is dependent on livestock farming for income, and much of its culture revolves around farming. The commercial livestock currently farmed cannot cope with the predicted hotter and drier conditions, and the community lacks the resources to adapt. The livelihood and culture of the community are therefore highly vulnerable to the combined impact of degraded farmland and climate change.
Local farmers in the Leliefontein area mention things such as “this river has not flowed for two years, there is no more grazing in that area, the sheep are eating poisonous plants, etc.” This is indicative of the need for climate change adaptation measures that will improve resilience of the land and livestock.
Climate Change Adaptation in the Kamiesberg
The village of Leliefontein lies in the heart of the Kamiesberg – a high lying area in the Namakwa District forming part of the rich and unique Succulent Karoo Biome. Both communal and private farmers produce some of the finest lamb and goat in this area. Livestock farming is one of very few livelihood options, and forms 80% of the local economy. Small-scale livestock farming is a pivot around which much of the culture of the area turns, and has been practised for over 2000 years by indigenous peoples and more than 300 years by private farmers. Sadly, unsustainable farming practices have left the land in commonages degraded.
A key challenge faced by the community is that the degraded commonages together with current and the predicted impacts of climate change, will make it increasingly difficult to continue to farm with existing commercial livestock – last year an unseasonable cold snap resulted in 80% of lambs being lost, leaving the community in a highly vulnerable position.
With the support of Conservation South Africa 53 farmers have banded together to form the Biodiversiteit & Rooivleis Cooperative and are undertaking activities to address threats to local livelihoods, culture and biodiversity. This includes clearing alien invasive plants, wetland restoration and soil restoration.
The BRC Land & Livestock climate change adaptation project addresses the need to (i) replace commercial species with hardier indigenous / semi-indigenous sheep and goats, (ii) help secure adequate grazing and water for livestock in extreme and changing climate conditions, and (iii) build the capacity of the local Biodiversiteit & Rooivleis Cooperative (BRC) to sustain efforts and implement projects like this in future.
Hardier livestock, improved grazing planning skills
In order to help farmers reduce their vulnerability and adapt to changing climatic conditions this project aims to:
1. Introduce seed-stock of semi-indigenous and indigenous livestock that are more resilient to heat, more disease-resistant, graze less selectively and still fetch premium prices (e.g. Meatmaster sheep with 50% Damara genetics and cross breeding indigenous veld goats with local boer goats). The seed stock will be increased yearly by keeping a percentage of lambs back as new breeding stock, in this way the transition can be taken to scale within 5 years. Healthier stock will fetch a better price, and the project will help the Cooperative with market links, thereby improving financial resilience of farmers.
2. Build capacity of farmers to adopt an adaptive management process in planning and implementing their grazing, with a focus on maintaining adequate grazing and water availability in the face of climate change. While the project will aim to implement an improved grazing regime with farmers, this grazing plan will be developed in collaboration with the farmers and technical experts to ensure it is locally appropriate, embeds adaptive processes around livestock and veld management, and expands on existing knowledge, skills, and tools in order to help farmers make decisions.
The process will reflect on the condition of grazing and water and the impacts of climate change, draw on traditional and technical knowledge to consider potential adaptations in grazing practice, and conduct pilots in one or two agreed areas. The pilot approach will allow farmers to see if the adaptation measure works or not and limit any unintended consequences. The process will also help to raise awareness of and reflect on the impact of Municipal regulation that limits the number of animals that legally may be together in a flock on the commonage to 250.
3. Invite unemployed youth to participate with the intention of inspiring and motiving them to take up farming, and equipping them with traditional and new ecological and livestock knowledge and skills, to help the community survive climate change into the future.
The project will directly benefit some 260 people, including 80 women and 60 youth.
“The project will be sustained by:
• Selling 80% and retaining 20% of lambs each year to grow climate resilient breedstock.
• Instilling sound livestock management practices in local farmers so livestock health, veld condition and water availability will improve.
• Building capacity of the Biodiversiteit & Rooivleis Cooperative management to sustain efforts, serve its members more effectively and implement project like this in future.”
Why does GA support the BRC Land & Livestock Adaptation Project?
The detrimental impacts of too rapid and extreme climate change are fast becoming a reality in South Africa and impacting heavily on poor communities. This project directly addresses this issue.
How does GA support the Project?
The BRC approached Gondwana Alive to assist them in submitting a proposal to the Climate Change Small Grant Fund in South Africa. We developed the grant proposal and successfully secured funding for the Cooperative, and will now assist them by administering the grant, building their administrative capacity, implementing the project and training farmers.