The long-standing health of South Africa’s agricultural sector depends on the sustainability of farming methods, which need to take into account long-term productivity, the impact on the environment, as well as profitability.
However, sustainable agriculture in the country would require significant collaboration between various stakeholders, including government, industry players, the farming community and environmentalists, Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) Africa conference and expo project director Mark Beaumont advised in a statement this week.
He noted that studies, conducted by several leading local and international institutions, all provided ample evidence indicating that South Africa needed to ensure that it employed sustainable farming methods across the agricultural spectrum.
“With a continuous spike in global food prices, as well as social and political unrest in various countries around the world, sustainable farming is no longer just an environmentally conscious decision, but a critical strategic move that will ensure future food security,” he said, highlighting that agriculture formed the foundation of developing economies, contributing to gross domestic product, food security, social welfare, job creation and ecotourism.
According to a recent Worldwide Fund for Nature South Africa report – Agriculture: Facts and Trends. South Africa ¬ – the welfare of current and future generations might be at risk owing to mismanaged agricultural industrialisation and intensification, which could compromise food safety and increase unemployment and environmental degradation.
The report added that, in contrast, sustainable agriculture would improve how land and water resources were managed to maintain healthy and functioning agricultural ecosystems that were rich in biodiversity, mitigated and adapted to climate change and, ultimately, contributed to everyone’s economic and social well-being.
Sustainable agriculture would be at the centre of this year’s GFIA Africa conference and panel discussion from December 1 to 2 at the Durban Exhibition Centre, in KwaZulu-Natal. “We will provide some insight on how to move towards a more sustainable agricultural future . . . [with] . . . a number of the hosted events facilitated by our partner organisations focused on this theme.”
GFIA Africa had just announced a new partnership with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), a joint institution of the African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) States and the European Union.
The CTA, through its mission to advance food security, increase prosperity and sound natural resource management in ACP countries, shared many of the GFIA's objectives.
The CTA had partnered with GFIA to drive the participation of African farmer organisations from across the continent by running numerous events at GFIA Africa 2015.
These would include a continental briefing for farmer representative organisations, a plug-and-play day featuring the latest information and communication technology used in agriculture, as well as a ‘hackathon’ and taster sessions for organisations interested in learning more about the applications of social media.