Growing fruit and vegetables in Africa for export has been shown to generate positive socio-economic impacts, but the industry relies on a secure supply of water. The allocation of this water needs to be carefully balanced with other needs such as supporting natural habitats and environmental flows, smallholder agriculture and urban development, and for hydropower and industry. The impacts of climate and land-use change are having negative impacts on water quality and quantity, especially in already water-stressed regions. The frequency of extreme events is also increasing due to climate change and catchment degradation has reduced the buffering capacity of ecosystems. Increased water demand, particularly for domestic use and for export horticulture, may in some instances, exacerbate the vulnerability of poor and marginalised communities to droughts and other environmental disasters. During times of drought, the demand for water within a catchment often exceeds the available supply and the impacts do not fall equally on all sectors. In particular, poor and marginalised communities often bear the brunt of the impacts. This project asks, ‘how can the twin development objectives of increasing the development benefits of commercial horticulture and reducing the impacts of drought on poor and marginalised communities be met in a socially and environmentally equitable manner?’ and seeks to develop a policy framework to improve livelihoods in those catchments.
The INR is working on this collaborative research project, with Cranfield University (UK) as the lead, with partners including the Institute for Development Studies (UK), Stellenbosch University, Cape Peninsula University of Technology and Jomo Kenyatta University (Kenya) investigating how best to balance these competing demands. The project is implemented in South Africa and Kenya through work in 4 case study sites. In South Africa, research is being conducted in the Breede and Groot Letaba catchments, and in Kenya, Lake Naivasha and upper Ewaso Ng’iro catchments. These catchments include strategic water source areas and also have significant populations of people that have been impacted by recent drought events, especially vulnerable communities, as well as important export horticulture industries.
The research team recently participated in a project workshop and field visit in the Western Cape arranged by Cranford University where we reflected on project progress, see link below: