Mainstreaming climate smart technology adaptation in Msinga’s farmers’ everyday agricultural practices through university, smallholding farming community and government partnerships: the place and space for indigenous knowledge systems.
Nwokocha, Godson Chinenye.
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This study adopted the Sustainable Livelihood Approaches (SLA) and the Quintuple Helix Innovation Model (QHIM) to explore the mainstreaming of climate smart technology adaptation in the everyday agricultural practices of smallholder farmers in Msinga, KwaZulu-Natal, through partnerships amongst university, government and smallholder farmers. Guided by an exploratory qualitative case study research design, involving questionnaires (open and closed-ended), document analysis and focus group interviews, the study was divided into two phases, namely, a preliminary and a main study. The preliminary study explored the knowledge and awareness of Msinga smallholder farmers about climate change and the accessibility as well as the suitability of support services available to them. In this regard, the current agricultural extension practitioners within Msinga were engaged to ascertain their level of competency to offer climate-related extension services to smallholder farmers within Msinga. Equally, the education and training programme of pre-service agricultural extension practitioners of one of the higher education institutions in KwaZulu-Natal was analysed to determine its suitability in training future extension practitioners. The second phase of the study explored the existence or non-existence of partnerships between the stakeholders engaged in this study as well as the roles played by each stakeholder group in these partnerships. Furthermore, the type of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) as well as Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) promoted in these partnerships were explored. The findings from the preliminary study revealed that Msinga smallholder farmers are indeed aware and knowledgeable about climate change. Their knowledge and awareness were classified into four categories, namely, evidence of climate change, causes of climate change, effects of climate change and solutions to climate change. Furthermore, the findings showed that a good number of the in-service agricultural extension practitioners are not adequately equipped to offer extension services related to climate change to farmers, when considered in terms of their level of qualification, exposure to content related to climate change during training and in-service training on climate change. This confirmed the view in the literature that most agricultural extension practitioners in smallholder farming contexts in South Africa lack the requisite knowledge and skills to facilitate adaptation to climate change. In tracing the root of this problem through research question three in the preliminary study, it was revealed that content related to climate change and climate change adaptation was not accommodated in the pre-service extension programme. However, content related to climate change was implicitly included by academic staff members while teaching topics such as social sustainability, environmental sustainability and economic sustainability. The findings from the main study showed that there are indeed different types of partnerships existing between academia, government and the smallholder farmers. In addition, the findings from the main study showed that the government and academia, as represented by Agricultural Extension and Rural Development lecturers are supporting the farmers through their roles in the direct and indirect partnerships they share. This was contrary to the assertion in some literature that there is a lack of interactions between stakeholders on climate change in developing countries and contexts. The roles played by academia and government stakeholder groups corresponded with the roles of academia and government, as conceived in QHIM, thereby paving way for the attainment of livelihood outcomes of food security, adaptation to climate etc. Again, these finding highlighted that not having the required qualification does not necessarily mean that the extension practitioners are incapable of offering extension services related to climate change adaptation. Surprising, the findings of the main study revealed that farmers were de-centred and hence played no roles in these partnerships, even though they proved to be aware and very knowledgeable about climate change during the preliminary study. This was contrary to the conceived roles of end-users under QHIM. It was found that the partnership between academia and the government promoted one CSA practice, while the partnership between the government and farmers promoted one other CSA practice. Additionally, the findings revealed that the partnership between the government stakeholder group and the farmers promoted six CSA practices while the partnership between the farmers and government yielded two CSA practices. It was significant to note that the highest number of CSA practices were promoted in the partnership between the government and the farmers. This implies that the government stakeholder group are the main drivers of climate change adaptation and sustainable livelihood outcomes in rural Msinga. Interestingly, the CSA practices promoted in these partnerships uphold the three key pillars of climate smart agriculture, namely adaptation, mitigation and food security. Most significantly, is the finding that these partnerships, do indeed, promote the use of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) in the form of indigenous agricultural practices in the everyday agricultural practices of Msinga smallholder farmers. This means that the place/space of IKS still largely resides with the end-users.