With the global population set to double in the coming decades, Southern Africa’s availability of arable land gives the region potential to be a key centre of agricultural production and contributor to improved food security.
Southern Africa has experienced significant economic growth over recent years. However, benefits accruing from these investments in the region have mostly excluded the rural poor.
With the majority of Southern Africa’s population living in rural areas and dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, smallholder producers and their communities portray, contrary to economic growth trends, higher levels of inequality.
Recent trends show that the need for effective and sustainable solutions to these developments are gradually being recognized by power holders in the region.
Smallholder producers, and women and youth in particular, are increasingly prioritized in policy as the future of agricultural and economic development and there is also an increased consumer-led demand for more sustainable produce.
Opportunities have therefore arisen for smallholders to feed into local supply chains, but in order to do this, they require support and access to services to apply better practices to ensure their produce to meets international standards.
Economic, climatic and physical factors, such as variable rainfall combined with unsustainable agricultural practices, constitute the most important immediate causes of the degradation of the soil and water resource base upon which future agricultural output in Southern Africa depends.
Unsustainable agriculture causes huge losses to the economies of some countries through declining agricultural production, a loss of food security, mass migrations, rapid urbanisation and an increased need for governments to import food.
Ineffective administration and a lack of resources in remote regions of Southern Africa mean that smallholder producers battle to access or are not able to invest in external inputs that improve livelihoods and help remedy unsustainable land use.
Solidaridad works to improve smallholder knowledge on sustainable practices and provide innovative technologies and solutions to change and reverse unsustainable land use that have compounded the devastating effects of climate change in the region.
The cluster model for Better Cotton Initiative smallholders in Mozambique has seen an average yield increase of over 100% amongst cluster farmers compared to non-cluster farmers.
The Farmer Support Programme in Swaziland trained smallholder sugarcane producers in business skills and natural resource management, improving smallholders’ income and the number of areas under sustainable land use.
Solidaridad has supported local barley smallholders produce and supply Heineken with local, sustainable barley. Solidaridad has also established offices in Mozambique and Zambia as well as a presence in Malawi, further expanding its reach in the region.
Solidaridad’s partnership with Concern Universal in the Farmer Support Programme in Malawi improved grower organizations capacity as well as smallholder technical capacity resulting in an 85% adoption rate of sustainable farming practices.
Solidaridad Southern Africa continues to pilot the adaptation of Rural Horizons to the Southern African context and has gained the interest of some key players in the fruit and vegetables and sugarcane sectors.
Producing sustainable cotton
In Mozambique, Solidaridad has successfully worked with one of the largest cotton producing companies, João Ferreira dos Santos (JFS), since 2012 to ensure smallholder cotton producers are equipped to produce more sustainable cotton. As the programme has grown, Solidaridad has focussed on improving infrastructure and the application of innovative cultivation techniques to enhance smallholder yields and better environmental management.
Improving land and water use
Southern Africa produces 75% of the continent’s sugarcane harvested by large and small-scale producers. The sugarcane programme in Southern Africa has focused on Malawi and South Africa and works with over 3,000 smallholder sugarcane producers in vulnerable areas in the Komati region to improve their irrigated water use efficiency. In Malawi, land shortages pose challenges for sugarcane expansion.
- Fruit & Vegetables
Accessing the market
The horticulture programme aims to contribute to the upskilling and commercialisation of smallholder producers in the sector in Southern Africa. With the goal of improving local and regional market integration and coordination along the horticulture value chain, partnerships with supermarket chains in the region have been initiated and strengthened with a focus on how best to reach smallholder producers at their level and need, to ensure inclusivity in the value chain.
Supporting good agriculture
Much like other regions of the world, smallholder soy producers in Southern Africa often suffer from low productivity. Solidaridad's soy programme began in an effort to address this challenge and improve smallholders’ livelihoods and sustainable farming practices. The first project began in Mozambique in 2012 with the goal of improving smallholder production management, thereby increasing productivity and improving soil conservation.
Learning livestock management
While a growing middle class in the Southern African region has led to a steady growth in the demand for animal protein, livestock producers have faced significant challenges in terms of the drought that has affected the region for the past couple of years. The livestock programme aims to support livestock producers to improve management that can increase productivity and efficiency while simultaneously helping to reverse land degradation that has occurred across the region from unsustainable grazing patterns.
Climate change had devastating effects on the region with Southern Africa experiencing its second rain-scarce season, leaving over 29 million people food insecure. With the majority of these populations living in rural areas and reliant on natural resources, addressing climate change through the inclusion of smallholder farmers and promotion of sustainable agriculture practices is at the forefront of Solidaridad’s mission.
Solidaridad Southern Africa had a very interesting and challenging year. There was a major internal change at senior management level while external economic, environmental and sociopolitical conditions were rapidly changing in the focus countries. These changes were driven by the shifts in global markets and the effects of climate change. Solidaridad continued its work in the cotton, fruits, vegetables, livestock, sugarcane and soy sectors.
Southern Africa is a food-importing region and imports have been growing in recent years due to economic growth. Expansion of the middle and upper classes in Africa will continue and it presents a huge opportunity for local farmers and entrepreneurs. Linking the economic growth of the cities to opportunities in rural Africa is a major challenge for the years ahead. Solidaridad Southern Africa is exploring how to make the most of this opportunity.
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