Adoption of rainwater harvesting by South African farmers is the latest initiative being implemented by the Water Research commission through the Amanzi project. In the last couple of years, South Africa has experienced unprecedented levels of drought. Climatic projections indicate that these drought levels are set to get worse. As a result, the country is experiencing prolific water scarcity and food security is continuously being threatened. To mitigate these effects, the Amanzi project aims to instill a culture of rainwater harvesting amongst South African farmers. This is in alignment with sustainable development goals that are pushing for sustainability in food production and in universal access to water in accordance with Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6).

Notably, education is a key precursor to the attainment of SDG’s. In South Africa, millions of households are struggling with water scarcity in the face of imminent rationing. Water scarcity has also negatively affected food production in the country. All of these negative ramifications are primarily attributed to reduced precipitation. This limited availability of water necessitates an approach to conserving the little water that is derived primarily through rainwater harvesting. Arguably water harvesting cannot be a solitary solution to water scarcity in South Africa as it does not address root causes such as climatic changes. This notwithstanding, the Amanzi project seeks to mitigate food and water scarcity by instilling a culture of rainwater harvesting in South African farmers.

Rainwater harvesting key to water conservation and food security in South Africa

The Amanzi project is training farmers on techniques of harvesting rainwater and of storing it properly. Over the last ten years, the Water research commission has been conducting research on techniques of rainwater harvesting in South Africa. The result has been a blend of training modules and practices that are applicable to the South African context. Through collaborative learning, farmers have been taught on various rainwater harvesting techniques. South African farmers have consequently applied the skills taught in the Amanzi project to implement rainwater harvesting systems. Mpumalanga area, for example, has been the subject of a prolonged drought. Farmers who have undergone training in the Amanzi project in the area have however started to harvest and store rainwater.

As a result of rainwater harvesting, farmers are able to capture and store all the available precipitation. This has led to an increase in food production due to the availability of water. Notably, climatic changes limiting rainfall has affected food production cycles. Food production is reliant on a reliable supply of water. Harvesting of rainwater has thus stabilized food production through a somewhat consistent water supply. Water harvesting has also mitigated the effects of water scarcity. Farmers who have harvested rainwater have a supply of clean water that is safe for consumption. In such cases, water rationing has little effect on the farmer’s needs for consumption and for agricultural use.

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