Adaptation, coping strategies and resilience of agricultural drought in South Africa: implication for the sustainability of livestock sector

Heliyon. 2021 Oct 28;7(11):e08280. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2021.e08280. eCollection 2021 Nov.


Agricultural drought has put sub-Saharan African under significant pressure, and without adaptation, will negatively influence a future generation. Hence, it is crucial to assess the adaptation and coping strategies, the resilience of agricultural drought, its implication on the sustainability of the livestock sector, and developing future interventions. Data of 217 smallholder livestock farmers were used in a principal component analysis to estimate the agricultural drought resilience index as an outcome variable against social wellbeing, economic outcome, environmental variable and adaptive capacity variables. The results found that 21% of the livestock farming households sold their livestock as an adaptation and coping strategy. In contrast, 20% of the farming households used alternative land use as an adaptation, and coping strategy, 20% stored food, 17% asked for animal feed, 6% sought employment, 6% migrated, 5% kept drought-tolerant breeds, 3% received relief grants, 2% used their savings and investments, and 1% leased their farms. When natural, economic and social sustainability was viewed as a resilience process, the three pillars positively and significantly impacted households' agricultural drought resilience. This implied that the more smallholder farmers participated in social networks and cooperatives, the higher the resilience to agricultural drought. Further, the more resources, income, access to land, access to water, access to credit, and additional types of farming, the higher the households' resilience to agricultural drought and adaptive capacity. Thus, the three pillars of sustainability are crucial for enhancing the resilience and adaptability of smallholder livestock farmers. The study recommends that government aid reduce vulnerability to agricultural drought via access to agricultural credit and encourage farmers to be part of social networks and cooperatives. Additionally, the government could improve access to land and water rights to boost the resilience of smallholder farmers to agricultural drought. This could be achieved through collaboration and coordination among all role players.

Keywords: Adaptation; Agricultural drought; Coping strategy; Livestock; Resilience; Smallholder farmer; Sustainability.