Jacoba Armoed working in the field, South Africa. Photo: Oxfam
The women adapt to climate change by planting crops that survive in colder weather

How women farmers in South Africa are adapting to climate change to feed their families

As a result of climate change and its impact on food production, small-scale women farmers in the Western Cape of South Africa are now eating less or nothing at all, and saving the little food they do produce for their families to eat. Despite their willingness to adapt, these women lack support to access markets, land and resources, owing to myths that small scale farming is for subsistence only.

Auntie Jacoba Armoed (56), who lives with her family in Rawsonville, Breede River Valley, says the biggest struggle is not having enough food. She says her community is witnessing the impact of climate change on the crops they plant and the quality of their produce. “Definitely, there has been a change that has happened because it should be summer now, but instead we get weather that is one week warm. On our land we have planted beetroot, spinach and cabbage, and those plants are just too small and this is because of the weather, which is very cold.”

Adapting to climate change

Women of the mushroom farm coop bringing in their mornings harvestThe women of the Rawsonville cooperative bring in their morning's harvest of gourmet mushrooms. Photo: Matthew Willman/Oxfam Australia

As a way to cope with these changes, Auntie Jacoba became a member of the Rawsonville cooperative run by Oxfam's partner organization, Women on Farms Project. The organization aims to help seasonal and unemployed workers increase their income. Their cooperative grows gourmet mushrooms, which they sell to a commercial farmer in Stellenbosch. The women receive a stipend of 500 Rand (US $60).

Auntie Jacoba says their crops failed this year because “the land had not been cultivated before, so no fertilizer had been thrown on the ground yet. It is the first time we plant on it, and on top of that the weather has been so cold.” The women are currently using simple techniques to adapt, planting crops that survive in colder weather and using mushroom locks for compost.

A continuing struggle

Women are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change because of their role in providing food for their families. They are finding it hard to cope with rising food prices and the increasing demand for food as their families expand. Access to land remains a struggle. While the cooperative has managed to secure land from the municipality, the women plant their crops in fear that they may be removed from this rented land since ownership is reviewed every three years.

Read more

Watch the video: Women on Farms – Land is Life: Climate Adaptation in South Africa

Read the report: Overcoming the barriers: How to ensure future food production under climate change in Southern Africa

Oxfam's GROW campaign

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