SALLnet Final Meeting

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SALLnet Final Meeting

SALLnet’s Final Meeting was held in Tzaneen (Limpopo, South Africa) on 20-21 June 2022. The overarching research question of our interdisciplinary research project is: “how can the resilience of the multi-functional landscapes in southern Africa be enhanced under the conditions of climate change and increased resource limitations?”. Six German and four South African partner institutions have been cooperating in SALLnet since 2018, under the BMBF-funded SPACES II program. The network has been coordinated by the University of Göttingen and involved researchers from a wide range of disciplines as well as stakeholders at different decision levels. Focusing on the Limpopo region - selected because of its diverse land-use, biodiversity and high spatiotemporal climatic variability - we have been developing and testing new approaches and methods and carried out dedicated experiments and surveys for developing more sustainable land-use options at landscape level. Focus was on the interactions between the connected land-use types: arable lands, rangelands and tree orchards. Among our main objectives, one is to develop and apply integrative tools and modelling platforms to explore and discuss alternative land-use scenarios and associated management options in view of rural development goals and their trade-offs jointly with local stakeholders. This would, in turn, inform the discussion and debate on how to best enhance the resilience of the multi-functional landscapes to climate variability and change in the region.
Project outputs so far realized by SALLnet comprise, among others:
- more than 20 peer-reviewed scientific articles,
- more than 40 other scientific publications (conference proceedings, technical reports),
- five book chapters led by SALLnet scientists in the SPACES 2 Springer Book,
- numerous presentations at national and international scientific conferences, project meetings and workshops with stakeholders.
In terms of capacity building, 9 PhD theses are ongoing, while 13 MSc theses have already been finalized (more are ongoing). Finally, several trainings and courses (both in physical presence and virtual formats) have been organized by SALLnet researchers over the past years, mostly targeting students and stakeholders from southern Africa.

Main focus of the Final Meeting held at Tzaneen was on corroborating and extending preliminary findings by presenting scientific project highlights and discuss promising options and management recommendations from distinct land-use case studies. Exchanging with research colleagues from different disciplines on important research topics, synthesis of results, and their societal relevance, as well as planning further collaboration for achieving academic goals (e.g. scientific publications and capacity building) and identifying future research needs, were the main objectives of the meeting.
Key to transformation pathways is technological change - with associated management and policy changes - and analysis of goal achievements and trade-offs with stakeholders for alternative future “pathways” (i.e. environmental and socio-economic).

Therefore, as part of our Final Meeting on 21 June 2022, we organized a Stakeholder Day to present our work to the relevant stakeholders, engage with them and ask for their feedback in terms of the applicability of the projects’ results, as well as their relevance for developing meaningful management and policy recommendations. This was done in a “hybrid” format: most of the participants (about 35 people) joined physically in Tzaneen, while some more participated in virtual form. This allowed the participation of a very heterogenous group of stakeholders, ranging from the political sphere to academics and researchers, members of national and international organizations, extension officers and farmers

Four main discussion topics were identified for the exchange with the stakeholders, namely:
(1) management recommendations for a more sustainable macadamia cultivation,
(2) interactions between smallholder livestock keeping and rangeland management,
(3) effects of mixed crop-livestock management scenarios in smallholder farming systems, and
(4) effects of technology change on farm household income and policy implications.

Following some short presentations by SALLnet researchers on key project results and their implications for management practices and policy recommendations, a plenary discussion with the possibility for all stakeholders to ask questions and give feedback to the project results was held. SALLnet project members and stakeholders had then the possibility to engage in deeper talks on the topics above during small parallel group discussions. Finally, everybody gathered again for a synthesis and conclusion of the event.

Some key messages emerged from the discussions with the stakeholders for the different topics and land use types in the focus of SALLnet project:
- For a more sustainable management of macadamia orchards, water use efficiency needs to be increased by better targeting the tree water requirements and avoiding over-irrigation. Furthermore, keeping semi-natural habitats around macadamia orchards is important for pollination and pest control by bats and birds.
- In terms of rangeland management under drought, the duration of the latter is responsible for strongly decreases in rangeland productivity and the loss of perennial grass species. Small grazing exclosures dispersed over the rangeland may ensure seed production of palatable grass species.
- Improved technologies and management options for mixed crop-livestock farming include a later return of livestock to rangeland and the storage of crop residues to enhance rangeland growth and reduce feed gaps.
- Finally, the adoption of improved and innovative technologies, particularly irrigation, is economically viable for all small-scale farm types in Limpopo. Information about these technologies through extension services and access to credit to fund these technologies are the most important enablers. Yet, this information needs to complemented by robust quantitative estimates /projections of future availability of water resources in the region.

Overall, the meeting was considered successful by all participants (due to an ad hoc evaluation at the end of the workshop). The exchange between researchers and stakeholders proved to be stimulating and enriching for both sides. What clearly emerged from such discussions is that further research on certain topics is strongly needed and that, more generally, research findings need to be communicated in a more targeted way to the relevant stakeholders and policy makers (e.g. through policy briefs and lists of management recommendations /fact sheets).