Chris

South Africa rises to the challenge of sustainability in farming

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I had the privilege to travel to South Africa to review the way the farms we take produce from are looking at sustainability.

We can forget that, while we in the UK are looking at the impact of the way we live our lives, there is a corresponding effect on those who depend on our custom. South Africa has huge challenges on the way they address social and environmental issues.

So over the next week or so I’ll be posting a series of articles and videos on what I found. This first video shows some of the landscape of Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain – look out for Robben island and the new football stadium on the coast.

Table Mountain was the first thing to strike me in Cape Town (other than the World Cup preparations). It frames the city. It’s part of a series of hills. These are pretty rugged and are a contrast to the valley sides and floors which are green with farming activity.

I was slightly confused by the combination of sunshine, warmth and driving on the right side of the road. The traffic was just like any other busy city, as were other details (skyscraper offices, buses, coffee shops etc). The city felt safe and I walked and used the bus system to get around.

Given I was visiting to talk about sustainability, perhaps it was no surprise that there was a lot going on around this. The produce sector (fruit and wine) has a strategy ‘Confronting Climate Change’ where producers have carbon calculators in operation.

One of the biggest carbon ‘hot spots’ on farm is water. This is due to the energy required to pump water for irrigation. Water is a scarce resource. I was shown narrow band irrigation to reduce the water requirement, soil management with compost and straw to reduce water loss and improve nutrient quality and water fertiliser combination to allow the trees to develop without water wastage and using lower power requirement pumps.

It would be remiss not to cover the social issues. You can’t avoid the townships on the edge of Cape Town. I saw the new social housing being built. I also saw the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) programmes which are helping to address some of the inequities. Already BEE enterprises are supplying into the South African fruit processors and at impactful levels.

Posted by Chris on 14 December 2009
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