Transforming South Africa’s Agricultural Struggles

South Africa’s Agricultural Struggles
Farming is crucial for growing Africa’s political economy. However, South Africa’s agricultural struggles have allowed the rest of the world to outpace South Africa’s agricultural outputs and economic prospects. Thankfully, for many South African farmers, the total income for agriculture and related goods services increased by about 4% in 2020, bringing new value to South African farming. New technologies and practices could further improve the value of South Africa’s farming by billions while bringing capital and investors into the developing nation. Such income could lift millions out of poverty and launch a new age of agriculture to benefit an entire country.

Africa’s Agricultural Economy

Despite South Africa’s agricultural struggles, the farming community remains at the heart of the South African economy. In the rural regions, more than 70% of the workforce works in agriculture and depends on it for their livelihoods and regional economic growth. South Africa’s agricultural impact expands beyond the regional farmers. Commercial farmers also strive to ensure the future of South Africa’s agricultural economy. The larger-scale farms experienced the most economic growth in 2020, increasing the South African corporate farming averages by 13% from the previous fiscal year. The commercial farmers are responsible for bringing new investments and technologies to South Africa. Still, large-scale corporate farms have their fair share of agricultural troubles.

Both the large and small-scale farms battle soil erosion, which often stems from failing or low-drainage systems and access to water, especially in the bouts of drought South Africa is prone to experience. South Africa’s agricultural struggles heavily impede a farmer’s ability to have a successful harvest and the nation’s high poverty and low-income rates strongly reflect this.

In South Africa, more than 55% of the population lived in poverty in 2014 and many economic experts believe that agriculture holds the key to poverty reduction for the nation. With such dependence on agriculture, it is necessary for South Africans, the government and farming corporations to introduce new farming technologies. Such new technologies could improve the status and quantity of South Africa’s agricultural community.

New Farming Technologies and Methods For South Africa

South Africa’s agricultural struggles have many causes. One is using soil and farmland without proper fertilizer and revitalization of soil in between harvests. To prevent soil erosion, farmers can harvest everything from their land, including the crops that did not grow sufficiently and set them aside to compost. The composted crops become mulch fertilizer. Mulch helps keep the necessary vitamins, minerals and nutrients plentiful in the soil. Mulch is only a temporary solution, though. For longer-lasting improvements in preventing soil erosion, agricultural experts are advocating for “no-till farming.”

No-till farming inflicts little disturbance on farmland. Farmers should begin their first no-tilling growing season after harvesting everything in the fields to limit diseases leftover from previous crops. No-till farming mandates fertilizer to revitalize the microbiome required for providing nutrients to the soil and crops. Due to the lengthened process to prepare a field for no-till farming, South African farmers fear they could lose out on income and delay harvests, or worse, risk crop infection and lose entire harvests. In the meantime, soil erosion sauces income losses annually until the land can grow no more.

Improper Water Irrigation

A second issue affecting South African farming is improper water irrigation. South Africa has a dry climate, with an intense rainy season between November and March. The majority of the rain falls during this period, meaning farmers must make all averaged 18 inches of rainfall count while properly irrigating the fields. The purpose of an agriculture’s irrigation system is to properly remove excess water that could cause crop damage while maintaining a healthy flow of water around the farmland. If the excess water remains, a crop is can lose sunlight and aeration and nutrients can flood the soil.

To fix poor water drainage and irrigation systems, one dominant idea has been to use Geo Positioning Software (GPS) with Light and Ranging detection technology (LiDar) to assist with curving land surfaces to appropriate levels given a region’s specific terrain and needs. Such technologies are attached to necessary plows that can then place a soil-safe, low-cost drainpipe for irrigation where it needs to go for optimal drainage and water coverage.

How South Africa Can Benefit From New Farming Technologies

No-till farming is rare in South Africa, but the few farmers who have ventured into the practice have witnessed immense improvements in the health of their crops and crop output. One farmer who began the practice only recently has had the most productive harvests in his tenure as a farmer. If both corporate and subsistence farmers were to introduce the method of no-tilling their land, there would significant improvement in a farm’s production, which could entice international investors to invest in a historically rich agricultural nation.

South Africa’s agricultural community is strong enough to have a trade surplus. Sadly, the poorest members of the farming community see no benefits. They need the help of investments and new technologies to flow in South Africa. Farming experts worldwide see potential in bringing new technologies and techniques into South Africa’s agricultural businesses. They believe that the latest tricks to the trade can improve the output and value of the region’s farming community by several billion Rand annually, benefitting all community members. New technologies and farming practices could end South Africa’s agricultural struggles, and South Africa’s high poverty rate could decrease exponentially.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr