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A comprehensive scoping and assessment study of climate smart agriculture (CSA) policies in South Africa
30 April 2014
Pearson Mnkeni and Charles Mutengwa


Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) is defined as agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, resilience (adaptation), reduces/removes greenhouse gases (mitigation), and enhances the achievement of national food security and development goals. CSA promotes the transformation of agricultural policies and agricultural systems to increase food production, to enhance food security, to ensure that food is affordable (low input-cost) while preserving the environment and ensuring resilience to a changing climate. The progressive interest in CSA is in response to growing evidence of a significant increase in the global mean state of the climate or in its variability, and expected further increases if carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions are not controlled (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), (2007). The projected temperature and rainfall changes are expected to adversely affect a wide range of agricultural activities over the next few decades. The expected reduction in rainfall would have a significant impact on South Africa's agriculture because a large portion of the country is semi-arid and experiences varying and low mean rainfall of 464 millimetres annually, relative to the world average of 857 millimetres (BFAP 2007).

It is now widely recognized that the challenges of food security and climate change are closely linked within the agriculture sector. However, policy, institutional arrangements, and funding channels for climate change, food security, and sustainable rural development are generally poorly coordinated (Bruce et al 2007). In order for CSA to be effectively implemented in any country, clear policies for all sectors involved are necessary. South Africa is actively involved in responding to climate change challenges (DEA, 2011). However, it is not clear to what extent CSA and its basic principles are understood and implemented by the different role players in the country. Therefore, this CSA scoping study was undertaken in order to establish the following:

  1. the status of CSA understanding and implementation in SA at different levels
  2. the current CSA Policy framework in South Africa in terms of effectiveness and equity.

Country overview of land, agriculture, and food security issues

South Africa has a dual agricultural economy, with both well-developed commercial farming and more subsistence-based production in rural areas. It has a land area of about 1.2-million square kilometres. Over ten percent (13.7%) of this land is potentially arable, 68.6% is grazing land, 9.6% is protected for nature conservation, 1.2% is under forestry and 6.9% is used for other purposes (Mukheibir and Sparks, 2006). Of the arable portion, 2.5 million hectares is in the former homelands and is primarily used for subsistence/ small-scale farming, while 14.2 million is used for commercial agriculture. Agricultural activities range from intensive crop production and mixed farming in winter rainfall and high summer rainfall areas to cattle ranching in the bushveld and sheep farming in the arid regions. Maize is most widely grown, followed by wheat, sugar cane and sunflowers. Citrus and deciduous fruits are exported, as are locally produced wines and flowers (

With respect to food security, South Africa has been addressing the following key challenges: 1. to ensure that enough food is available to all, now and in the future; 2. to match incomes of people to prices in order to ensure access to sufficient food for every citizen; 3. to empower citizens to make optimal choices for nutritious and safe food; and 4. to ensure that there is adequate safety nets and food emergency management systems to provide people that are unable to meet their food needs from their own efforts and mitigate the extreme impact of natural or other disasters on people (Integrated Food Security for South Africa (IFFS), 2002). According to Du Toit et al., (2011) South Africa could be deemed food secure at national level but not at household level as an estimated 20% of South African households have inadequate or severely inadequate food access.

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