Mind the Gap!
Dean and Head of the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES), Professor Albert Modi, gave a short presentation at Oxfam’s Low Carbon Development Public Dialogue in Durban.
The Mind the Gap dialogue was based on a paper compiled by Oxfam titled: “You Can’t Eat Electricity: Why Tackling Inequality and Hunger should be at the Heart of Low-Carbon Development in South Africa”.
The event was attended by more than 80 guests from various sectors including academia, non-governmental organisations and the private sector.
Modi was invited to contribute from the perspective of agricultural development in South Africa and its contributions to carbon emissions as well as food security. He shared the platform with three other speakers: Ms Liz McDaid, co-author of the paper; Ms Emily Hector, a Community activist from Lamontville, and Ms Caili Forrest, a Research Officer at eThekwini Municipality.
The speakers all contributed from the perspective of different levels of society and prioritised the low-carbon development of South Africa as well as ensuring the availability of resources for citizens. The panel included contributions from a civil society perspective and a government perspective to add dimension to the debate on how to approach low-carbon development.
In his presentation, Modi explored the impact of the agro-eco system on climate change in the food sector as well as the pressure placed on farmers to reduce carbon emissions while still providing sustenance for the population.
During his presentation, Modi honed in on the importance of innovative ways of using energy in farming without compromising food security. He proposed that part of this was recognising indigenous knowledge as a science thereby validating its positive ways of using what is available to generate energy.
He said this would enable rural farmers to produce food without adding to the effect of carbon emissions and increasing the demand for electricity on South Africa’s one centralised source of power. He also emphasised the necessity of teaching indigenous knowledge innovatively at tertiary level so that it would spill over into policy and practice in agriculture.
The topic was very well-received and moved the debate on to the discussion of indigenous knowledge as science. As a result of Modi’s presentation, Oxfam has expressed interest in initiating and funding a project with him dealing with climate change and responsible agriculture, with a focus on how indigenous knowledge can contribute.
Commenting on this, Modi said: ‘It is a great opportunity, as an academic, to engage with the community and civil society outside of my usual sphere of work with agricultural science. This fulfils one of the University’s mandates and I would encourage all of my colleagues to take community engagement like this seriously. It has huge potential to allow us to share our knowledge as well as to open up opportunities for funding from organisations which work with communities.’
- Christine Cuénod