Agricultural resilience and adaptive capacity during severe drought in the Western Cape, South Africa

Theron, S.N., Midgley, S., Hochrainer-Stigler, S., Archer, E., Tramberend, S. ORCID:, & Walker, S. (2023). Agricultural resilience and adaptive capacity during severe drought in the Western Cape, South Africa. Regional Environmental Change 23 (3) e98. 10.1007/s10113-023-02091-6.

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Meeting the needs of multiple users and uses of freshwater resources is becoming progressively challenging. The response to the 2015–2018 Western Cape drought in South Africa offers lessons for both commercial crop growers and policymakers to enhance resilience. The drought highlights the complex interactions between water supply for urban and agricultural uses. This study employed a mixed-methods approach by combining the five capitals (natural, physical, financial, human, and social) of the sustainable livelihoods framework with semi-structured interviews to assess the impacts of the hydrologic and socio-economic drought on irrigated apple production. Data used for the study included production statistics, dam and water flow, weather data, and interviews. Results highlight a progressive weakening of the natural and physical capital between 2015 and 2018. Human capital in the form of expert consultants together with social capital of networks proved key to mitigating the impact of drought on apple production. The study also found that growers’ adaptive capacity was high as they made use of multiple capitals available to them. This resulted in lower than anticipated impacts on production and in turn stabilized financial capital available to farmers. Lessons from the drought show that building human and social capital can significantly improve the resilience of commercial farms which form part of complex water systems. Urban water-related vulnerabilities and demand are closely interlinked with the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of irrigated agriculture. Thus, policies which facilitate the in-tandem adaptation of these sectors are likely to be most successful in building resilience.

Item Type: Article
Research Programs: Advancing Systems Analysis (ASA)
Advancing Systems Analysis (ASA) > Systemic Risk and Resilience (SYRR)
Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR)
Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR) > Water Security (WAT)
Young Scientists Summer Program (YSSP)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2023 10:56
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2023 10:56

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