Biodiversity and agriculture

The agricultural production of food, flowers and fibers is a major industry in South Africa that contributes significantly to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), job creation and food security. But the health of the agricultural sector depends on the sustainability of farming methods –- practices that should protect the long-term productivity of the land, while ensuring profitable yields and the well-being of farmers and farm workers. It has become clear that we need better environmental practices if we want to ensure ongoing productive agricultural systems and food security in South Africa (Agriculture Facts and Trends, WWF 2010), especially in the face of climate uncertainty.

Within the agricultural literature, there are a number of terms that could be confused when dealing with conservation in production landscapes, i.e. conservation agriculture, conservation farming, conservation tillage, eco-agriculture, and organic farming. Click here for definitions.

These pages of the Biodiversity Advisor aim to point the user to conservation and sustainable agriculture information, tools and initiatives. For the farmer, or land manager, there are links to more information about planning and assessments that are required for agricultural land.

SANBI regularly undertakes research projects specifically related to agriculture and conservation. Partners of SANBI are also involved in research projects relating to sustainable agriculture, including livestock management.

SANBI and other partners (including government and non-government) continue to work hard regarding agriculture and biodiversity conservation, and this has resulted in a number of sustainable agriculture or eco-agriculture initiatives as well as various tools for managing a sustainable farm. The initiatives include various producer initiatives — such as the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative or the Right Rooibos initiative –- as well as retailer initiatives like Woolworths’ Farming for the Future programme. Stewardship on agricultural land has also become an important conservation tool.

Below is a list of other tools or guidelines that can be used for better management:

1. Grazing and Burning Guidelines

2. Grasslands Ecosystem Guidelines