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CR 88:1-11 (2022)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01693

Factors preventing smallholder farmers from adapting to climate variability in South Africa: lessons from Capricorn and uMshwati municipalities

Henry Bikwibili Tantoh1,*, Thabiso Michael Mokotjomela2,3, Eromose E. Ebhuoma4, Felix K. Donkor4

1Department of Geography and Planning, Faculty of Arts, The University of Bamenda P.O. Box 39, Bambili, NW Region, Cameroon
2School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Private Bag 3, Wits 2050, Johannesburg, South Africa
3South Africa National Biodiversity Institute, Free State National Botanical Garden, Rayton, Dan Pienaar, PO Box 29036, Danhof, 9310, Bloemfontein, Free State, South Africa
4Department of Environmental Sciences, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, University of South Africa (UNISA), Florida 1709, South Africa
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Climate variability has adversely compromised food production in South Africa, with severe consequences for the livelihood of smallholder farmers. However, the extent to which adaptation has enabled rural farmers to continue earning their livelihoods has received limited attention. This paper addresses this knowledge gap by examining the constraints faced in food production and the coping strategies adopted by these farmers in responding to climate variability and change. A mixed research approach (primary and secondary) was used to obtain data from the municipalities of Capricorn and uMshwati in Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, South Africa. Structured questionnaires, focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews were used to obtain primary data, while internet, libraries and organizational reports were consulted to obtain secondary data. Results showed that rain-fed agriculture was the most common type of farming (60%), compared to irrigation farming (40%). Furthermore, 25% (8/30 respondents) of smallholder farmers practising mixed cropping had been involved in agriculture for more than a decade. Smallholder farmers have adopted mitigating strategies ranging from social adjustments at the household level and combining food production with off-farm activities to sustain their livelihoods and overall wellbeing. This study argues that an enabling environment will facilitate the ability of rural farmers to adapt to climate variability in the local context and present beneficial socio-economic dynamics within the small-scale agricultural food production sector.


KEY WORDS: Adaptation · Climate change · Food production · Poverty · South Africa


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Cite this article as: Tantoh HB, Mokotjomela TM, Ebhuoma EE, Donkor FK (2022) Factors preventing smallholder farmers from adapting to climate variability in South Africa: lessons from Capricorn and uMshwati municipalities. Clim Res 88:1-11. https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01693

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