uMngeni Resilience Project

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Progress Report written by Lungi Ndlovu

The first two quarters of the uMngeni Resilience Project have been very productive.
In October we participated in the filming of the project and beneficiaries by the Adaptation Fund. The producer interviewed and filmed farmers, members of the Nhlazuka traditional council, a councilor, disaster management personnel, the municipal manger and the uMDM mayor who all spoke about how climate change is affecting communities in the uMDM area and how the project will help to reduce their vulnerability to these impacts. UMDM Communications used this opportunity to communicate widely about the project with local print media and radio.

The inception workshop was held in November 2015. It was attended by 30 participants representing various government departments and entities as well as well as current and potential implementing partners. There were a lot useful suggestions and input from workshop participants when the implementation plans for each of the components were presented. Overall, support for the project and a willingness to work together was expressed by participants. The Inception Report was submitted to the Adaptation Fund in mid-December.

Progress on Component 1:
1.1 Umgeni Water is in the process of finalizing their proposal for the work they will be doing in developing a flood early warning system. Consultations with eThekwini Municipality are planned, to learn from their established systems.

1.3 A temporary weather station has been set up at Swayimane High School which has allowed UKZN to run some tests while the permanent one is being procured. A complete automatic weather station system with GPRS capability is currently being purchased which will allow UKZN to receive data remotely. Two computers are also being procured to be placed at Swayimane High School.

This will allow the school to use the data received from the weather station for teaching and learning purposes. Learners will initially be equipped with skills to interpret observed weather data and later to also interpret weather forecasts which will help their older family members who farm, to plan their farming activities.

Over the next few months UKZN will conduct baseline surveys to determine farmers’ perceptions to climate change as well as mini-workshops with staff and learners at Swayimane High School to introduce them to climate change and the agrometeorology information system (AIM).

UKZN has planned a multi-stakeholder workshop for 18 March, at which national and regional experts will come together to discuss the requirements of the Project, and best practice options to allow access to seasonal forecasts to be of value to small scale farmers.

Progress on Component 2:
DEA-NRM have presented on the work they will be doing to rehabilitate ecological infrastructure in the project areas. Discussions are underway regarding contractual arrangements so that they can start the work in their new financial year.

Progress on Component 3:
Field trials have been established with 126 farmers (103 women and 23 men). This is more than the planned 50 for this year. A variety of climate smart crops and methodologies are being tested in both the researcher-managed and farmer-managed trials. The focus of the work with farmers has been on a diversified cropping system as well as integrated soil fertility management.

All of the methods being trialed are low-technology using things like grass cuttings for mulch to retain soil water and reduce weeds and intercropping to increase resilience by growing crops of different canopy heights alongside each other. These interventions and the staggering of planting dates during the growing season so that some crops were being planted as late as January, has meant that farmers in Swayimane participating in the project have not felt the adverse effects of the drought as has been the case in other areas. At the request of the farmers a community garden has also been set up which will give UKZN another opportunity to investigate different climate smart agriculture methods.

A meeting with the traditional council in Swayimane was held to formally introduce the project to them. There was positive response from the council members and they pledged their support for the project.

Progress on Component 4:

We have been working with WESSA to compile the APIP and budget for component 4. One of the challenges with budgeting accurately has been that a lot of component 4, as originally envisaged, was dependent on the other components being fully developed and at implementation stage. This is currently not the case.

We have thus reviewed the work under this component and developed a new TOR wherein WESSA will be developing the systems required for knowledge management and capacity building. The contractual arrangements that will allow WESSA to get on board and conduct this work are being negotiated.