School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Capacity-Building Workshop for Local Government Focuses Agricultural Planning and GIS

Capacity-Building Workshop for Local Government Focuses Agricultural Planning and GIS

Researchers from UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) involved in the uMgungundlovu District Municipality’s (UMDM) uMngeni Resilience Project (URP) hosted a half-day workshop.

The workshop was held at the Ukulinga Research Farm to focus on capacity building within the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (KZNDARD).

It was the last in a series of UKZN-KZNDARD training sessions. It was attended by about 20 scientists, extension officers and practitioners from KZNDARD.

The URP climate change adaptation project is funded by the global Adaptation Fund through the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). One component of the project is aimed at improving capacity and sharing learning between communities leading the implementation of early warning systems, climate-proof settlements and climate-resistant agriculture, all of which are development targets of the URP.

This component resulted in workshops where KZNDARD extension officers within uMgungundlovu received training on climate change adaptation. UKZN and KZNDARD maintain a working relationship under an official memorandum of understanding.

Professor Paramu Mafongoya, South African Research Chair (SARChI) in Rural Agronomy and Development, presented at the workshop on the topic of environmental considerations in agricultural planning. He covered a number of global, complex and interlinked environmental challenges, and emphasised that considering these is vital for the sustainable development of the Earth and humanity.

Mafongoya honed in on the role of soil health as underpinning many of these environmental challenges, highlighting the need to manage soils well. He said a number of ecosystem services that incorporate an important soil component, from regulatory to cultural services and more. He gave an overview of soil functions and spoke about aligning these to environmental challenges, concluded that soil has an integral part to play in tackling global sustainability challenges.

Mr Samuel Kumbula, a Master’s candidate in Environmental Sciences, spoke to attendees about the application of geographic information systems (GIS) in agriculture and forestry, saying it maximises the efficiency of planning and decision-making. He said the paperless system made it simple to revise and update as planning progressed.

In agriculture, Kumbula said GIS can be used for determining acreage, modelling and said the technology provides timelycrop statistics for decision-making and planning, enables crop growth monitoring, soil status monitoring, and provides regular reports on the total area under cultivation.

Kumbula explained how GIS can be used in water use studies, for soil type mapping, crop coverage mapping, river or distributary mapping, contour mapping, irrigation mapping, meteorological mapping and agricultural drought assessment.

‘We hope that we have delivered on all your expectations; some of the principles you have learned may be new but we hope it has validated information that you already know,’ said UKZN postdoctoral researcher, Dr Vimbayi Chimonyo.

Chimonyo said the training’s ultimate goal was to aid the people served by extension officers and researchers.

Attendees thanked the University and UMDM for the workshop and the valuable information presented

Words and photograph: Christine Cuénod