Sustainable agriculture

In response to the challenge of developing more sustainable agriculture and fisheries and to reduce habitat destruction, a number of Business and Biodiversity Initiatives have emerged across South Africa, particularly in the Western Cape. The initiatives aim to put production on a more sustainable footing by conserving agricultural resources of soil, water and grazing while demonstrating that all production landscapes are dependent on biodiversity for the ecosystem services they provide.

Most of the initiatives include land stewardship as an important conservation tool on agricultural land. Better land use and agricultural practices in these initiatives also means that they should be more resilient to climate uncertainty and are contributing less to greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, the initiatives strive to be socio-economically viable, The Green Choice Alliance  (1.5 MB) managed by Conservation South Africa, provides networking support across the supply chain as well as guidelines and monitoring tools to existing and new producers’ initiatives. A recent study has shown that the initiatives in the Western Cape comprise over 400 000 ha under better land management and contribute to many of the nation’s conservation targets (Green Choice Biodiversity Baseline Study 2010). This page provides links and downloadable resources relating to these initiatives. The initiatives can be divided into: retailer initiatives and producer initiatives. Stewardship on Agricultural Land and Tools for Managing a Sustainable Farm are also discussed.

Retailer initiatives

Some retailers have launched conservation-related campaigns, while others have set up mechanisms whereby their suppliers are rewarded for farming sustainably. One such programme is Woolworths’ Farming for the Future (FfF) programme. The conservation sector (WWF-SA and Conservation South Africa) contributed to the FfF guideline, thus introducing the idea of land stewardship to their agricultural suppliers. In fisheries, 3 out of 5 major retailers have committed to a Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative’s (SASSI) Retail Charter and undergo 4-monthly performance assessments.

Producer initiatives

Some producers, with the help of the conservation sector, have established exciting ways to combine conservation into their production systems. Since the inception of these initiatives, there has been a shift from a focus on conservation alone to a holistic one that includes conservation, sustainable agricultural practices, social equity and financial management — in short, ecological, efficient and integrated farm management that takes the entire landscape into account. This approach is epitomized by the The Green Choice Living Farms Reference (3.56 MB), a reference for creating farm guidelines. Read more about the initiatives using the left hand side menu and in the Green Choice Alliance (1.5 MB).

Stewardship on agricultural land

Stewardship refers to the wise use, management and protection of that which has been entrusted to you. Within the context of conservation, stewardship means wisely using natural resources that you have been entrusted with on your property. The Western Cape province of South Africa lead the other provinces and has become a world-leader with regards to Stewardship on private land, with various options open to the land owner. The process is managed by CapeNature with links to SANBI’s bioregional programmes. The Western Cape also has Conservation at Work, which is the umbrella body for conservancies and conservation-minded landowners in the province.  Most of the other provinces in South Africa also have Stewardship programmes, with SANBI’s Grasslands Programme having a focus on Stewardship.

Tools for managing a sustainable farm

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has created information sources for people wanting to engage with Conservation Agriculture and FAO’s Plant Production and Protection Division promotes the sustainable intensification of crop production.

Locally in South Africa, the Green Choice Alliance (1.5 MB) has several tools for managing farms according to ecological, sustainable and integrated principles and has produced the Green Choice Food Security Fact Sheet.

The Green Choice Living Farms Reference (3.56 MB)

This document was developed jointly by WWF-SA and Conservation South Africa and is a reference for any industry to develop a farmer-friendly guideline. It is structured according to environmental, social and environmental principles and contains all relevant SA legislation around agriculture. The Reference has already been used to develop guidelines for rooibos, barley, mohair and red meat. The document is open source but if using the reference to develop farmer guidelines, please contact the Green Choice Manager so that we may help you and/or have a record of who and how the Reference is being used.

The Green Choice Farmer Field Book (380 KB)

This ‘field book’ is a farm management system that is available as record keeping books and an Excel-based workflow. Using the spreadsheet, you can enter your daily farm activities such as hours of tractor use, number of people weeding or clearing alien invasive plants. Based on labour, fertilizer and other input costs, the workflow will give the farmer reports with graphs and tables on yield per unit input, land use efficiency, biodiversity conserved, alien invasives cleared, soil and water health, human wildlife conflict, greenhouse gas emissions, and livelihoods. Carbon footprints can be determined using a carbon calculator from Unilever, The Cool Farm Tool. Contact the Green Choice Manager so that we may help you with using these tools.