Agricultural biodiversity practices empowering local communities of Umbumbulu
The rural community of Umbumbulu in KwaZulu-Natal was recently given the opportunity to participate in a hands-on research project led by Professor Albert Modi, Dean in the School of Agricultural, Earth & Environmental Sciences. This outreach initiative forms part of a mission to encourage rural communities in KZN to explore agricultural biodiversity as an innovative way to achieve food security and improve general quality of life, while also managing the negative impacts of alien invasive plant species in the region.
"In the context of the current debate about land redistribution, food insecurity and poverty in South Africa, it is critical for communities to be educated and empowered to make sustainable decisions regarding their livelihoods", explained Modi. The approach falls in line with the government’s National Development Strategy and National Development Plan Vision for 2030, which mandates the overall improvement of the quality of life of South Africans. A focus on rural communities is vital as they maintain access to land that can be utilised in ensuring food security and the generation of livelihoods without relying solely on government to provide these resources.
| Rural communities in Umbumbulu are benefitting from an outreach programme coordinated by Professor Albert Modi, Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences. |
The National Integrated Food Security Strategy (IFSS) calls for an increase in the number of households that can productively undertake sustainable agricultural practices for themselves and for trade purposes. Rural land, however, faces the threat of encroachment by alien plants, reducing food security for marginalised communities.
"Under the mentorship of Professor Modi, we have been able to remove unwanted, alien plants and replace them with useful vegetables, indigenous trees and medicinal plants, creating a food source for our community and the possibility of jobs as we begin to harvest for commercial use", said Mrs Babongile Mkhize.
Modi, who is also GreenMatter Senior Fellow, believes that encouraging rural communities to better understand the link between indigenous knowledge and science makes practical strategies readily implementable in areas such as organic vegetable production and integrated pest management systems.
This approach requires commitment towards educating and sharing knowledge with these communities in order that it succeeds.