The Cape Media publication, Alive2Green, recently played host to the 9th annual Sustainability Week held at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria from 24 to 26 June. It incorporated the 2nd Sustainable Cities Southern Africa Conference.

This allowed ample opportunity for role-players from a wide spectrum of industries to get up to date with the latest in everything sustainable, from sustainable mining and infrastructure for more sustainable cities, to sustainable agriculture, energy and water use.  

On 26 June the sustainable agriculture and food security seminar was hosted and featured speakers from all spheres of life. Topics covered included the sustainability of jobs in the agricultural industry amidst the rise of Internet of Things and Big Data, ensuring the sustainability of women and the youth’s involvement in agriculture, the potential of regenerative agriculture to improve environmental sustainability, and the importance of market access and access to agricultural inputs to remain sustainable. Below are a few short summaries and videos of these topics.  

Sustainability, a hot topic

Emmanuel Ekosse, doctoral researcher and a graduate of the UNISA School of Business Leadership currently working for the research company, In On Africa, discussed the untapped potential there is in Africa for collecting agricultural data. The continent should see this as an opportunity to develop new jobs in the industry. Agriculture is not just about ploughing the field – there are many opportunities that would interest especially the youth. Accessing this technology in the agricultural industry, affords Africa a great opportunity to improve farming efficiency. Watch a short snippet from Ekosse’s presentation here.

Ntuthu Mbiko-Motshegoa of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA) National Women’s Desk and a smallholder farmer in the red meat and game industry, spoke about the importance of ensuring that women have sustainable roles in the agricultural industry. She said that the majority of women in the agri industry are farm workers and not farmers or business women. She says that women need to make the shift from farming to agribusiness in order to remain sustainable in the industry. Her twelve-year old daughter, Morwadi Motshegoa, joined her at the summit and participated in discussing important topics. Learn more about these inspiring women in the video below.

Regenerative agriculture

“Regenerative agriculture is an umbrella term for more sustainable agricultural practices,” said Ryan Meiring, founder of Big Inja Farming, during his presentation. “It includes practices such as no-till crop farming as well as utilising cover crops, but my interest lies in the livestock aspect.

“Intensive rotational grazing systems, based on Alan Savory’s methodology, attempts to mimic natural patterns. Regenerative agriculture is about working with nature, not against it. It addresses a wealth of challenges that we are facing in agriculture and they are all interrelated. If we can solve one, we can solve all of them.” Meiring shared his thoughts on what sustainability in agriculture really means. Learn more about this in the video below.

“Not only could investments in such systems benefit food security – it also offers benefits for the environment. Regenerative agriculture stores carbon in soil, thus removing it from the atmosphere. It can also reverse the effects of desertification. Meiring’s low-tech system entails small grazing camps that are moved around for the sheep and is then grazed by chickens, which act as a natural pest control. The system mimics migrating flocks of wild grazers followed by wild birds. Watch the video below for a short summary of how this system works.

Sustainable market access

Dr Ntsikane Maine, director of farmers’ support at the City of Tshwane, gave delegates an overview of the city’s involvement in agricultural projects and support. She shared some Agri Parks success stories that have led to an increase in agricultural production in urban areas. Dr Maine emphasised the role of the city in advising farmers. She said that not only is it important for emerging farmers to gain knowledge of primary production, but their knowledge about access to markets are just as important. To hear more about this, watch the short video below.

Access to agricultural inputs was also an important aspect of sustainable farming discussed by Luambo Munzhedzi, CEO of Zwavhulimi Soil Fert Company and chairman of Agro Dealers Association of South Africa (ADASA). Munzhedzi discussed their role in enhancing the sustainability of input purchases for smallholder farmers that find it logistically difficult to travel long distances due to their rural locations. They have developed a model that they call ‘from agro-dealer to farm gate’ which ensures that farmers are informed about the inputs they buy and that they know how to use it. Watch a short video below where Munzhedzi explains more. – Ursula Human, AgriOrbit