Rural households' perception of the effect of climate change on food security in uMzinyathi District Municipality of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
The study examined in specific terms the interaction between household food security and rural farming communities’ perception of climate change in uMzinyathi District Municipality of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. A survey was conducted among 200 households randomly selected from five wards. Households were randomly selected from villages and only those household members at the age of at least 40 years and participating in agricultural activities were asked to volunteer to participate in the survey. Focus group discussions and key informant interviews were carried out to obtain qualitative data. Data was then analysed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). The results show that communities’ perception of climate change matched the quantitative data of climate of the area. The study area is becoming hotter and drier. Over the period 1993 – 2010, average annual temperature had increased by 1.5oC. Rainfall generally decreased over the period 1981 - 2010 with the years 2004, 2007 and 2010 recording the least rainfall amounts of 368mm, 296mm and 319mm respectively below annual average rainfall of 784mm. Households observed increased frequency (73.0%) of droughts while incidences of floods had decreased over time by 52.0%. Households were evenly distributed across the five vulnerability categories with extreme categories of 18% households being very highly vulnerable and 20% being less vulnerable. The results confirmed that indeed households were experiencing climate change and that they are reacting to this change by adopting differing agricultural and non-agricultural practices. A large proportion (83%) of households anticipate that they will alter their livelihoods systems to respond to climate change with 59% of households indicating that government grants will play an important role in their adaptation to climate change. Households assessed (97%) were found to be severely food insecure while 3% were moderately food insecure. Households were worried about the negative impacts of climate change which included droughts, floods and soil erosion. Households who were found to be vulnerable to climate change recorded high levels of food insecurity. Perceptions of communities to climate change should be considered by policy makers in advancing strategies to mitigate impacts of climate change. Households are not homogenous and experience vulnerability to climate change differently, recommending that blanket interventions for communities should not be used to mitigate climate change but household specific interventions should be considered. Households will effectively adapt to a changing climate by governments putting in place mechanisms that will help finance the adaptation interventions. Capacity of households should be built through extension services so that 11 households are well prepared to effectively undertake appropriate adaptation methods. Rural farmers should be assisted with packages that can help them undertake effective adaptation mechanisms to climate change. Information will play a critical role in ensuring farmers can do what is within their means to address household food security in a changing climate.
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