Case study

DFID Research: Managing climate risk in South Africa's Western Cape

Researchers are working to provide planners and farmers with better access to climate information.

Most Western Cape fruit production is under irrigation
Most Western Cape fruit production is under irrigation. Picture: C. Van Rooyen

Like other fruit growers in South Africa’s Western Cape, Trevor Abrahams worries about water. The Western Cape is the heartland of South Africa’s wine and fruit production. The industry is a critical source of jobs and revenue, but fruit production depends heavily on irrigation, and must compete with a growing urban population and the tourism sector for scarce water supplies. Climate change scenarios consistently predict less rainfall in this already dry region.

The Western Cape contributes almost one quarter of South Africa’s gross farming income. The Cape’s fruit and wine sector employs at least 200,000 farm workers and that number or more in secondary industries. But the last decade has seen a series of droughts in the region. In 2004 to 2005, agricultural production dropped by 30%, many jobs were lost, and municipal water had to be rationed.

A team of researchers led by the University of the Free State is working to give planners and farmers access to improved climate information and a range of options to help them prepare for a water-scarce future. The research team is using an integrated modelling approach to demonstrate costs, benefits, and risks associated with likely changes in the climate, and different approaches to land and water use. With input from important stakeholders like the Berg River Catchment Management Agency, which represents all water users, these models will help Trevor and other local people make better-informed decisions about investments and water use.

More information:

Managing climate risk to water and agriculture in South Africa is a research project led by the Kenya Medical Research Institute, with support from the Climate Change Adaptation in Africa (CCAA) research and capacity development program. A project record on R4D detailing DFID funding of the CCAA is available here.

Maps and information on the Berg River catchment area

Read the project profile on R4D: Adaptation is … Managing climate risk in South Africa’s Western Cape

Published 22 May 2008