Climate Smart Agriculture for Food Security
UKZN’s Farmer Support Group (FSG) and local community women from Msinga recently hosted the fourth annual nutrition fair – “Climate Smart Agriculture for Food Security” – at Gudwini in Msinga.
FSG staff and members from the community have been engaged in various projects in the Msinga district since 2004. FSG provides smallholder farmers with training, advice, action research and project support in areas ranging from organic and indigenous gardening to crafting.
The Msinga terrain is covered with aloes and rock, has no green grass or pastures, and the area is remote. FSG aims to actively assist these smallholder farmers and other land-users to manage their natural and related cultural resources in a sustainable manner in order to improve their livelihoods and quality of life.
In 2011, FSG established a farmer-led Nutrition Fair as a way of encouraging the groups in Msinga to learn and reflect on their accomplishments. The fair not only brings together farmers to share and exchange ideas, but it also showcases and markets their produce, and links farmers to relevant stakeholders.
Furthermore, the fair provides a platform for farmer-farmer exchange within and between districts.
The 2014 fair was attended by partners from KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzburg Agency for Social Awareness, CAP, Msinga-based non-profit organisation Philanjalo, the Departments of Health and Agriculture, the Institute of Natural Resources, and the tribal authority) and the Western Cape (Surplus Peoples Project and Women on farms Project). Some partners brought their beneficiaries. In addition, FSG donor representatives (DKA and Tshintsha Amakhaya) were also present.
The event centered on farmers’ indigenous knowledge techniques in terms of planting and seed saving. Furthermore, cross-cutting issues relating to nutritious food production and health were highlighted.
UKZN postgraduate students supervised by the Institute of Natural Resources were given a platform to explain their Water Research Commission project in Machunwini Msinga, which relates to water harvesting using contour lines. Owing to the semi-arid terrain, results support the water harvesting method as it increases maize yields and moisture content.
Feedback from local farmers indicated that they found the stakeholder presentations useful and were motivated to start exploring different ways to cope with climate change.
After all the presentations and discussions, attendees had the opportunity to buy and sell produce. Vegetables, ground chillies and honey sold like “hot cakes”, to the extent that customers were directed to the neighbouring Gudwini garden for more supplies.
The event ended on a high note with entertainment by a local high school and the garden groups dressed in traditional attire. As the sun went down people carried their vegetables home to cook a nutritious meal for their families.