Climate variability: Human management response to environmental changes in Touws River valley and Makolokwe
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Climate has been changing significantly around the globe; hence climate variability is of great interest to researchers. The changes in climate have caused variances in rainfall and temperature, both elements of paramount importance in farming, whether commercial or communal farming. As these fluctuations in temperature and rainfall occur, they cause direct impacts on different livelihoods, fauna and flora. The aim of this thesis is to investigate the human management responses of farmers in two different contexts of communal farming (Makolokwe) and commercial farming (Touws River valley), with a focus investigation on the adaptation and coping strategies of the farmers, as well as spatial analysis of the vegetation and rainfall variability. Farmers were asked to discuss climate and adaptation based on the rainfall data available as well as far as they could remember the occurrence of changes. Rainfall data was available between 1988 and 2017 for Touws River, while the data utilised for Makolokwe was available between 1928 and 2016. The link between the local knowledge of the farmers and scientific knowledge is an important aspect of this research. The Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) was used to analyse the vegetation changes on a temporal and spatial scale in the context of Makolokwe and Touws River valley respectively. The differing variations in climate variability and change experienced by the two farming communities are placed alongside an exploration of the adaptation and coping measures which are put in place by farmers as a response to the changes evident in climate, as it allows for better and thorough understanding of the occurring changes in the two communities. The study found that perceptions about climate variability vary in the two communities although there are some common factors. Farmers’ perceptions about climate variability are drawn from their own observations at a local level as well as knowledge from the media regarding terms such as El Niño and drought. Farmers in both communities indicated that they experienced insufficient rain in the winter months which had an impact on the grazing areas and the management of the livestock. These months also threatened livelihoods, especially for farmers who depend on their livestock for their livelihood, in particular communal farmers. Perceptions of factors such as decreasing grazing and vegetation in their environments have led to the adoption of adaptation and coping strategies on the part of farmers. Commercial farmers have more choices in this regard than communal farmers, such as converting to game farming. Common coping strategies include: (1) farmers have had to subsidise and use alternative food sources for the livestock, (2) livestock numbers have been reduced in order to adapt to climate variability, with an impact on livelihoods (3) farmers have had to rely on their hope and faith that things will get better. Planning for climate variability is challenging for land managers. Knowledge and access to resources is therefore essential in ensuring that farmers are kept on track with the changing environment.