Impact of climate change on food security in rural areas

In the thirteenth of a series of articles by our Youth Newsroom reporters, Tshegofatso Matlou from South Africa returns to the village where she was raised by her grandparents.

Agriculture and food security- Impact of climate change on food security in rural areas

As a young girl, I was raised in Gamphahlele, a village in the rural areas of Limpopo, by my grandparents who were subsistence farmers. We had all sorts of vegetables from corn to morogo, popularly known as spinach, as well as fruits from mangoes and pomegranates to oranges and peaches. You name it, we had it. We relied heavily on these crops for our food together with our chickens and livestock. We only went to the shops for items such as mealie meal and any veggies we did not have.

When I was seven, I moved to the city with my parents to start grade one. However, I visited my grandparents frequently, it was my second home after all. From the year 2015, I began to notice how my grandparents relied more on store bought items as their crops died. Initially, I thought this would be a one time thing caused by the heatwaves as a result of the El Nino event. According to National Geographic, ‘El Niño is a climate pattern that describes the unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. El Nino is the “warm phase” of a larger phenomenon called the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)’.This is a weather pattern that has influenced average temperatures all over the world. However, this was not the case. The number of their crops had decreased significantly since then, and they now relied heavily on store bought items. This is certainly not ideal for pensioners.

Late 2019, the world was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, and during the early lockdown stages in South Africa, spaza shops (also known as local or community stores) had to be closed. This meant that groceries could only be bought from the big supermarkets which are in most cases franchises. The pandemic also saw a huge increase in food prices. This made food increasingly inaccessible to people such as my grandparents who are pensioners who no longer relied on their crops for food and who lived far from these supermarkets. I am almost certain that many others in their community suffered from the same struggles, if not worse due to the increased unemployment.

This shows that education about climate adaptation is very important, especially for subsistence farmers in rural areas. It is the key to ensuring their food security. The lack of knowledge by my grandparents and those in similar situations is what led to their inability to adapt, hence their food insecurity. Had they known better earlier, they would alter the types of foods they plant throughout the years to adapt to the climate.

What we can be certain of is that the climate has, is and will continue to change. The question now is: Are we all equipped to adapt to this change? Are we educating our respective communities on the importance of adaptation? If not, the Climate Adaptation Summit taking place on the 25th and 26th of January is a great place for us all to start learning.

Tshegofatso Matlou (South Africa)