The challenges of climate variability faced by small‐scale farmers in the drylands have always been daunting. Current and predicted climatic changes have already, and will in future exacerbate the extremes of variability and increase the pressures. Adaptation to changing climatic and socio‐economic conditions is particularly challenging for producers who have been caught in poverty traps, and who have limited access to scientific knowledge.
Promising results have been achieved by engaging small‐scale rooibos tea farmers of the Northern Cape Province of South Africa in gathering and analysing local weather data, providing them with access to scientific information and mobilising their local knowledge and capacities to develop appropriate solutions within an action research context. However, this process is not merely data, knowledge and learning driven: engagement that addresses a range of human needs in a context that generates enthusiasm and strengthens the bonds of mutual support creates the synergies that are needed to rise to extraordinary challenges and advance sustainable land management.