Assessing livestock farmers' ecological knowledge and adaptation to climate and environmental change in arid regions of South Africa
Ntombela, Khululiwe Primrose
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Challenges that come with micro-level climate change projections have resulted in the inadequacy of our understanding of local climatic changes and the appropriate adaptation strategies. This has resulted in indigenous communities relying on their local knowledge for local scale climatic changes and suitable adaptation practices. Coping and adapting to climate and its impacts has been occurring since human existence, however, humans are still vulnerable due to the rapid rate that the climate is changing. Adaptation is vital for all global people, especially living in semi-arid or arid regions, as it provides a solution for food shortages and livelihoods. Global livestock farmers have, over many years, accumulated local ecological knowledge; and it is from this knowledge that decisions are made. Local knowledge related to adaptation to climate change and variability has largely not been recognized or documented and it is only lately that it is deemed to be critical in formulating policies to mitigate the harsh effects of the rapidly changing climate. This study was focused on the local knowledge and understanding of climate change and variability (and associated environmental change) with its impacts and adaptation of communal livestock farmers in the semi-arid regions of the Northern Cape Province in South Africa. Two communal areas namely, Leliefontein and Steinkopf in Northern Cape served as study sites. A case study approach, with triangulation of focus group discussions and semistructured interviews, was used. The focus group discussions were aimed at drawing up a seasonal calendar, where 10 livestock farmers from Leliefontein and 14 from Steinkopf participated. The focus group discussions were followed by indepth semi-structured interviews, where a total of 20 livestock farmers from each study site were interviewed. While various other studies highlight the lack of awareness and understanding of climate change among livestock communal farmers, this study found that 90 % and 55 % of the interviewed Steinkopf and Leliefontein livestock farmers had an understanding of the phenomenon. The interviewed farmers referred to the phenomenon of climate change as "seasonal shifts" that they have been experiencing. Findings of the study indicated that intergeneration knowledge transfer and media sources contributed as sources of climate and farming management information. The basic, but wealthy knowledge of farmers informs them of potential climate change impacts and possible adaptation strategies. The study also revealed that even though adaptation measures are being carried out by livestock farmers I n the two study sites, that there are general barriers which include financial, biophysical environment, social and institutional barriers that inhibit effective adaptation. Recommendations from this study were that policies should consider and protect local knowledge; and that the factors that affect successful adaptation strategies of communal livestock farmers should be considered when adaptation programmes are planned.