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Sustainable Agriculture in South Africa

Since 2015, South Africa knew it would have to work faster to develop its sustainable agriculture sector. South Africa was one of many countries to sign.

The United Nations COP21, a treaty to agree to work towards reducing each nations carbon footprint. Sustainable agriculture in South Africa would not only help lead the country in the direction of a lower carbon footprint but it would also help local farmers.

Challenges in Lowering South Africa’s Carbon Footprint
South Africa is blessed with an abundance of natural resources. It is one of the world’s largest producer of gold, chromium and platinum according to the CIA Factbook. Unfortunately, lucrative mining and the industries that spring up around these rare and valuable elements are known to pollute. As South Africa will inevitably have to rethink its mining practices, the next logical step to meeting sustainable goals will be in farming.

The battle of sustainable agriculture in South Africa is not just for lower food prices but a better profit for the farmers and a reduction in the impact that agriculture has on the environment. Kobus Pienaar, the technical manager of Woolworth’s Farming for the Future Campaign stated that hitting the 17 sustainable development goalsand 169 targets will not be an easy achievement for South Africa; however, there will be benefits for the environment, for the market and for the people. Now more than ever, people around the world want to buy food that is safe for the environment.

Antiquated Laws Holding Small Farms Back
The ghost of its colonial past still haunts South Africa. What may come as a surprise is that an outdated water lawthat was enacted in the 1920s’s was never written off the books. South Africa still operates off this water permit system, which was meant to empower the colonial rulers of the time. Now, it makes criminals of small farmers as the system currently favors larger farms and farming corporations. While this might help industrial output some, it hurts small farmers a lot. It also hurts the growth of sustainable agriculture in South Africa as well as food security. The larger farms and cooperations are favored because they can afford these permits.

South Africa is not the only nation where this practice persists. Many other former British Colonies still have some form of these laws. Governments are trying to find solutions to this problem. One solution that has been considered is having community permits where everyone pitches in to buy a larger permit. This might be a good short-term solution, but this is an obstacle that must be tackled if South Africa is going to succeed in sustainable agriculture.

The Future of Sustainable Farming in South Africa
Sustainable agriculture in South Africa may sound like a dream; however, through cooperation, it can be achieved. Mark Beaumont, the director of Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture in Africa, spoke about the difficulties that South Africa faces. He also said that though the cooperation of the National government, international organizations, small farmers and large farming corporations, food security could be achieved through sustainable agriculture. If Beaumont is right, then the future looks promising for South Africa.

The international community is putting its support behind sustainable agriculture in South Africa and the nations food security. The FAO is leading the way by providing lessons on sustainable agricultural practices. Organizations like The Green Choice Alliance are helping farmers by leading conservation efforts and helping farmers to maintain an ecological balance on their farms and the surrounding land. While sustainable agriculture in South Africa may be in its infancy, with government cooperation, it could grow into something much more.

– Nicholas Anthony DeMarco


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