An exploration of commercial and subsistence farmers climate change adaption strategies in the Ditsobotla-local municipality, North-West Province, South Africa
Climate change is one of the greatest threats facing the agricultural sectors of developing countries during the 21st century. The vulnerability of South African farmers, and more specifically those located in the Ditsobotla Local Municipality of the North West Province, will increase in direct correlation with the occurrence of extreme weather events and unexpected variations in climate. In the Ditsobotla Local Municipality, the manifestation of climate change is already evident in the form of increased temperatures, longer periods of drought and irregular rainfall patterns. Adaptation is a key component of resilience among farmers as they encounter challenges caused by climate change. Previous research has revealed that a differentiation in the ability of commercial and subsistence farmers to respond efficiently to climate change could further exacerbate the vulnerability of farming communities, and lack of livelihood security in agricultural areas. This study aimed to explore various aspects pertaining to the topic of climate change adaption that are relevant to the study, and whether a difference in adaptive capacity could be observed between commercial and subsistence farming groups within the context of the Ditsobotla Local Municipality. An exploratory sequential mixed method design was used for this undertaking, as it made room for the use of both qualitative and quantitative methods in a single study. Themes derived from the initial theoretical phase of the research permitted the development of an appropriate measuring instrument. A questionnaire was administered to twenty-five farmers from each of the commercial and subsistence farming groups during the latter part of the research. An analysis of the responses to the questionnaire showed different adaptation strategies implemented by the commercial and subsistence farming groups in an effort to cope with the steadily declining state of agriculture due to the manifestation of climate change. Commercial farmers opted for adaptation methods aimed at ensuring maximum yield, such as the application of recommended chemicals and fertilizers. Subsistence farmers favoured operational adjustments, for example tactically distributing their agricultural activities throughout the season for optimized production and use of their land. Unique indigenous methods of adaptation, such as the grass shelters, that have emerged from the study were testimony to the belief, shared by most of the commercial and subsistence respondents, that indigenous knowledge could add great value to modern climate adaptation strategies. The study also established that some of the most prominent factors constraining the adaptive capacity of the farmers (both commercial and subsistence) are related to their physical environment, lack of market access, financial constraints and limited access to established social networks (such as farmers associations). Crucially, the results revealed that the constraining factors identified should not be seen as a means of deciding which farming group (commercial or subsistence) should receive priority for support with climate change adaptation. Rather, they should all be considered in the formulation of holistic climate change adaptation strategies that will benefit all farmers and ensure the sustainability of all agricultural systems.