School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Participants at the Value-AG workshop.

UKZN Hosts Value-AG Modelling Tool Workshop

Academics and researchers from the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) hosted a workshop on the VALUE-AG modelling tool with training provided by researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the University of Adelaide in Australia.

Dr Marta Monjardino of CSIRO and Mr Brendan Brown of the University of Adelaide joined forces with researchers from SAEES, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development(KZNDARD), the uMgungundlovu Municipality (UMDM) and SouthSouthNorth in Cape Town.

The Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES), Professor Albert Modi, thanked all those in attendance and Dr Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi and others who planned the workshop as part of work on the uMngeni Resilience Project (URP). The UMDM-led project focuses on increasing resilience of vulnerable communities through interventions such as early warning systems, climate-smart agriculture and climate proofing settlements.

Groups were encouraged to discuss agricultural innovations and their implementation, with Brown pointing out that the application of these tools helped in understanding the adoption of agricultural innovations. Monjardino and Brown gave examples of successful system-wide practice changes in Australia, such as no-till agriculture, and covered challenges in evaluating agricultural innovations.

The Value-AG tool, still in development, combines two tools introduced during the workshop. The first is the Adoption and Diffusion Outcome Prediction Tool (ADOPT), involving influences on adoption of agricultural innovations by farmers. The tool is intended to predict the likely adoption and diffusion of specific innovations; inform research, development and extension, and make adoption and diffusion considerations more available, understandable and applicable.

The second tool introduced was the CSIRO-developed Integrated Analysis Tool (IAT), a whole-farm bio-economic model developed to explore biophysical and economic impacts of innovations in smallholder farming systems. The model comprises three components, including an economic model, a livestock model (for ruminants) and the APSIM model (or another preferred model) for crop and forage.

Mr Richard Kunz of SAEES thanked Monjardino and Brown for their inputs, while Monjardino thanked participants for their attendance and enthusiasm, saying the process was a two-way one which had inspired her and Brown.

Modi thanked the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) for their funding of the URP and its commitment to training postgraduate students through the project as well as the opportunity the project provides for academics to give back.

Words and photograph by: Christine Cuénod