Helping farmers to adapt to climate change

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Alleviating the impact of global warming and climate change is the focus of a study conducted by doctoral candidate Martin Chari, under the supervision of  Professor Hamisai Hamandawana of the University of the Free State’s Risk and Vulnerability Science Centre (RVSC) and Dr Leocadia Zhou of the RSCV at the University of Fort Hare. 
The study aims to support farmers whose livelihoods are largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture and demonstrates the willingness and commitment of UFH researchers to address pressing climate-change-related problems and other challenges that continue to threaten resource-poor communities.
Predictions are that global warming will result in some areas being more susceptible to flooding, while others are expected to suffer from unpredictable failures in rainfall.
Although farmers may try to adapt to changing rainfall patterns by shifting from the production of food crops to rearing livestock, this is not necessarily a positive solution as a rise in livestock numbers will lead to an escalation in the production of green-house gases and a consequent increase in global warming.
One way of addressing changes in rainfall patterns is to provide farmers with usable information on how to overcome a reduction in the amount of moisture in soil by adopting climate-friendly farming practices. 
However, doing this requires information about soil moisture at levels of spatial detail that meet the needs of farmers themselves. Although the literature offers information on a wide range of techniques used to estimate soil moisture, most are difficult to implement because they rely on high-resolution datasets most developing countries cannot afford, are labour intensive and time consuming, and are also incapable of providing the information at a level that is usable by small-scale farmers.
Fortunately, remote sensing, a technique that involves detecting energy that is reflected from the earth, provides a means of overcoming these limitations. The research team, therefore, embarked on a study that aimed to identify what needed to be done to ensure that remote sensing could used more fully by the small-scale farmers whose lives it could benefit.
The study was based on a review of articles in the Web of Science publications between 1999 and 2019. Overall, the team identified 1,337 articles focusing on soil moisture, 172 of which finally emerged as peer-reviewed articles that used techniques to estimate soil moisture which then led to the use of strategies intended to cope with climate change. 
In accounting for the marginal use of remote sensing techniques in the papers
they reviewed, the researchers concluded that this was because most African countries have limited access to appropriately scaled images. This then led the team to argue that the best way forward is to formulate techniques that use freely accessible coarse resolution images to provide much-needed information.
The contribution made by Martin  Chari and his supervisors is valuable because it shows what needs to be done in order to enhance the ability of farmers to adapt to changes in soil moisture driven by climate change.