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Johannesburg - More frequent, intense and devastating forest fires. The emergence of new diseases and pests that will affect humans, plants and animals. Fishing communities that may be forced to relocate to find new sources of income as stocks falter.

These are some of the warnings contained in the draft climate change sector plan for agriculture, forestry and fisheries, which has been published in the Government Gazette for public comment.

The plan notes it is “indisputable” that climate change will result in food, feed, timber and energy insecurities, especially in rural areas, while the shortage of water and food and the changing spread of disease vectors and new pests “will all lead to a greater health and life risks”.

The increasing frequency of disasters such as droughts, heatwaves and floods poses serious threats and risks to agricultural production and food security, warns the document.

The poor will be the most adversely affected by climate change.

“They suffer most from the impacts of both climate change and climate variability, as they are mostly directly dependent on the natural terrestrial and marine ecosystems for survival.”

The plan hopes to “minimise or reduce” the negative impacts associated with climate change, promote climate change programmes to build capacity, raise awareness and improve education and training in the sector, and ensure a climate change implementation programme.

While the main crop-growing areas were likely to remain the same, crops and cultivars would change, “with heat tolerance and water-use efficiency paramount”.

Forested areas countrywide would undergo changes with increased temperature. Due to the increase in dry spells and temperature, there would be an increased frequency and intensity in fires.

There has been a “noticeable escalation” in the number of pests, while “pathogens are spreading much faster” and with increased intensity.

Most aquatic living resources are sensitive to small-scale changes in their environments. “Communities dependent on fisheries are vulnerable and may struggle to maintain their livelihoods due to increased control of quotas and compliance enforcement.”

But because the manifestations of climate change were difficult to distinguish from those of natural disasters such as droughts and floods, stakeholders needed to put mitigation and adaptation measures in place to “minimise its negative effects and cope with its realities”. - Saturday Star