Agriculture as a Social Innovation Tool to Combat Climate Change Issues
Young people across the world are aware of, integral to and active in making significant contributions to address climate change, food production, farmers’ livelihoods and agripreneurship, with South African youth displaying the same willingness. The unemployment rate amongst the youth in South Africa is 46%, compared to the national unemployment rate of 32.6%.
Opportunities for youth employment creation exist in the emerging farming sector and bring a new dimension of improving productivity through smart technologies. South African smallholder farmers lack theoretical knowledge, technical expertise and advisory services to enhance adaptation to climate change.
The impact of climate change through increased temperatures and variable rainfall, and the COVID-19 pandemic are exacerbating existing vulnerabilities at the smallholder level. This threatens the potential for agriculture to address food insecurity, unemployment and inequality, especially among marginalised groups such as women and the youth.
According to UKZN’s Dr Thea van der Westhuizen, Principal Investigator and Project Leader, the youth could be involved in the ‘entrepreneurial actions of growing, marketing and processing at economies of scale, improving productivity and profitability’. The Systemic Action Learning and Action Research (SALAR) project offers a forum where the youth explore entrepreneurial opportunities and select areas of intervention based on multiple objectives.
An innovative collaboration between UKZN, the University of Swansea, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the University of Cape Coast and Liv Agriculture-Liv Village seeks to address this national crisis by creating opportunities for the youth in agriculture. The Innovation for African Universities (IAU) programme, designed and funded by the British Council, aims to advance entrepreneurial developments and research partnerships between universities in Africa and the United Kingdom.
A delegation from Swansea University visited InQubate (UKZN’s technology transfer office), the University’s Ukulinga Research Farm in Pietermaritzburg, and the CSIR in September.
Van der Westhuizen highlighted the significance of entrepreneurial universities as the ‘epicentre in a city and a province,’ and the importance of centring this on the youth. She outlined the project’s approach and methods, which are Shifting Hope Activating Potential Entrepreneurship (SHAPE) through applying SALAR.
‘This project aims to up-skill the youth and potentially narrow the unemployment gap, improve food security systems and address climate change. The overarching aim is to develop a SALAR postgraduate agricultural entrepreneurship curriculum to tackle social innovation within the agricultural sector, youth unemployment and the impact of climate change.’
Van der Westhuizen, who serves as the Academic Leader for Management and Entrepreneurship at UKZN referred to her book on Effective Youth Entrepreneurship - Enablers and Barriers for the SHAPE Entrepreneur Ecosystem Strategy, which ‘co-inspires to really shift hope and activate potential entrepreneurship within an ecosystem through action learning and action research.’
Lecturer in entrepreneurship and innovation at Swansea University’s School of Management Dr Samuel Ebie, emphasised the importance of making an impact in communities and the world. ‘Yesterday we were sharing about the violence, and the riots and the poverty, and we saw the UN’s report on the index of poverty and hunger, in the midst of plenty…. That irony was one of the things that we looked at when we started this project. We set out to make an impact - we knew that we couldn’t change the whole world, but in a little way, we could,’ he said.
Ebie noted the importance of using agriculture as a tool to address climate change, hunger and poverty ‘to make a positive impact and help with youth unemployment, especially within the Black community.’
InQubate Director Ms Suvina Singh highlighted some of the projects currently underway in the School of Agriculture and said the curriculum developed for the SHAPE project will have far-reaching impacts. ‘One of the biggest challenges that we are facing globally is intensive, unsustainable agriculture and the impact that this is having on societies globally in terms of climate change. This curriculum will be an enabling piece of the puzzle that will help us to educate the next generation of farmers in terms of sustainable agriculture,’ she said.
(Pic 1) From left: Dr Samuel Ebie (Swansea University), Ms Luntu Hlatshwayo (UKZN), Dr Thea van der Westhuizen (UKZN), Mrs Suvina Singh (UKZN), Dr Alan Price (Swansea University), and Mr Deven Reddy (UKZN).
(Pic 2) From left: Mr Phila Shozi (UKZN), Professor Sybert Mutereko (UKZN), Dr Samuel Ebie (Swansea University), Ms Thembelihle Dlala (UKZN), Ms Luntu Hlatshwayo (UKZN), Dr Angela James (UKZN), Dr Yemisi Adelake, Professor Steve Worth, Mr Nigel Chiweshe, Dr Alan Price, and Dr Pfano Mashau.
Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer
Photographs: Sethu Dlamini