By Amy Grundling
Portulacaria afra, or otherwise known as the Spekboom, is an indigenous South African succulent plant. It has bright green small, round leaves with a red stem, creating a refreshing appearance. The average Spekboom usually grows 1.5-2m in hight. The natural habitat of the Spekboon is warm, arid and semi-arid areas, especially renown in parts of South Africa such as Ado Elephant Park and the town of Prince Albert.
The Spekboom is increasingly drawing attention for its unique characteristics and various uses. One of the most important characteristics is that the succulent is effective in carbon sequestration. By absorbing free carbon for tissue growth, the succulent decreases the amount of pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels, acting as a carbon sink.
Spekbome is an ideal shrub to plant in a water scarce country such as South Africa. The succulent is a drought-resistant plant, which can survive on 250-350mm of water per year. Spekboom is easily propagated, which makes it an ideal plant to plant in your garden without spending money.
The following steps will show you how to propagate your own Spekboom:
Step 1: What you will need.
You will need the following list of products
Step 2: Select and prepare Spekboom cuttings.
Select a few healthy cuttings from a vigorous Spekboom, preferable in late spring. The ideal cutting should be between 10 and 15 cm in length. Look for vigorous branches with thick and healthy leaves. Make a 45° angle cut and remove the leaves at the end of the cutting.
Step 3: Dip the cutting in root growth hormones.
Moisten and dip the end of the cutting in a root growth hormone that will stimulate root growth. This step is not necessary, although it will increase the speed of the cutting’s root growth.
Step 4: Prepare a rooting pot.
Prepare a rooting pot that have several drainage holes at the bottom. Fill the pot with succulent potting mix or your own mixture of course and standard potting soil. Insert the Spekboom cutting into the soil and press lightly around the stem.
Step 5: Water the cutting.
Lastly, water the cutting and allow the soil to drain thoroughly.
Step 6: Watch it grow!
Place the potted cutting in indirect sunlight for at least five hours a day and apply water once a week. Rooting will take place within 14 to 20 days.
For more information, please visit the South African National Biodiversity Institute website:
By Renée Grundling
World Wetlands Day was celebrated on the 2nd of February, an annual day to celebrate the Ramsar Convention signed at Ramsar, Iran in 1971. South Africa was one of the first countries globally to sign the treaty. This year's theme is 'Wetlands and Biodiversity'.
There are currently more than 2300 designated Ramsar Sites, sites of international importance, all across the world. The above photo is one of the newest Ramsar Sites (no.2385), officially declared in September, 2019, and can be found in the Kgaswane Mountain Reserve, Rustenburg, South Africa. This wetland system is situated on a plateau in the Magaliesberg mountain range and has a variety of special characteristics including peat.
For more information go to https://whc.unesco.org/en/ramsar/.
In the following video, Dr. Piet-Louis Grundling discusses the importance of Wetlands:
By Adelene van Zyl and Renée Grundling
Oil has been the most important source of energy in the world since the 1950’s. According to UK Oil and Gas PLC, oil primarily supplies energy to factories, heat homes and produce fuels of all kinds. Modern agriculture is largely automized or semi-automized and is dependent on electricity and fuel to maintain large production machinery and implements.
The conflict between countries regarding oil supply and demand is not a new problem. A result of this conflict led to the creation of the Organization of Petroleum Export Countries (OPEC) in 1960 with its first five members being Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. 
A shift came in 1973 when oil was used as a political weapon in the Yom Kippur War. An embargo was set between Israel and the Arab States of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, motivated by the United States of America (USA), to inflate oil prices, effective immediately. This influenced South Africa in 1974 as the first Oil Crisis when oil production slowed down due to oil shortages worldwide, leading South Africa to re-invest in coal derived fuel by companies such as Sasol.
In 1979 an Anti-Western policy was set up by Islamic rule in Iran which caused the second Oil Crisis. This led to an eight-year war between Iran and Iraq which caused non-OPEC countries to produce more oil than OPEC countries. In the 1980’s, non-OPEC countries had a 70% market share, upon which the USA increased oil production tremendously. Conflict arose primarily over a waterway between the Persian Gulf and Oman, called Strait of Hormuz, leading to the Arabic Sea. This waterway was and still is the only way of transporting oil to and from the Middle East.
In 1991 the USA intervened in the Middle East and established military defence bases and signing defence agreements with the Gulf monarchies. This intervention of peace lasted until 2001 when the USA decided to decrease oil consumption from the Middle East.
Conflict between the United States of America and Iran grew further and caused oil prices to spike in 2003. This conflict decreased production and gave China the opportunity to increase oil supply in 2006 and 2007. Steady oil production continued to 2014, until Saudi Arabia manipulated the market in order to prevent the USA from supplying more oil, causing prices to drop. Recent conflicts between the USA and Iran stems from political skirmishes involving nuclear device productions, deals and sanctions, all of which leads to rumours regarding warfare between these two countries and fluctuating oil prices. 
How might this influence South Africa?
Due to the instability of geo-politics and variables regarding oil supply and demand, it is difficult to determine exactly what will happen and how it might influence South Africa. Currently, South Africa is mainly dependent on coal produced energy and amounts to 59% of the country’s energy consumption. Crude oil and gas only amount to 16% and 3% respectively. The main concern for South African electricity is not oil fluctuations, but rather excessive coal consumption due to this
resource being depleted at an increasing rate. South Africa’s fuel prices, however, is very much dependant on the Rand/US Dollar exchange rate and international crude oil prices.
South Africa should therefore turn its focus to biogas and biofuels. These are renewable energy sources that is produced by anaerobic digestion of organic materials and used in the agricultural sector, minimizing costs of the farmer by substituting natural gas. Biogas has added benefits such as reducing exhaust emission pollution and one’s carbon footprint  . Biofuel is a product of biogas when CO 2 is removed to increase the energy content and allow storage under high pressure  . Biofuel can be biodiesel or bioethanol, both of which is made from different biomass and has different products and implements in which it can be used.
Bioethanol is a biofuel that can be used in engines that run on petrol and is made from fermented sugar.  This type of biofuel is commonly produced using agricultural wastes such as corn straw and sugarcane bagasse. Biodiesel, as the name implies, is a diesel substitute and is produced using a process called “transesterification”. This type of fuel is produced from various fats and oils from feedstocks such as canola and soybean.  Farmers can therefore literally grow the fuel for their farm machinery and implements  .
Biogas and biofuels will most likely become a reality much sooner than what we may think. Transitions from electricity and fossil fuels to natural gas and biogas will enable the user to slowly become independent from energy and crude oil providers such as Eskom and imports from the Middle East. The agricultural sector, as an added benefit, will not only be able to use their home-grown fuel, but can also create a lucrative income for themselves.
[ 1 ] Meredith, S., 2020. Energy infrastructure attacks are ‘probable’: Oil traders fear supply disruptions
in the Middle East. [Online]
Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/07/us-iran-tensions-oil-traders-fear-supply-
[Accessed 3 Febuary 2020].
[ 2 ] Parvaneh, D., 2019. Why The US And Iran Are Fighting Over This Tiny Waterway. [Online]
Available at: https://www.vox.com/videos/2019/8/22/20828858/us-iran-hormuz-oil-tanker
[Accessed 1 Febuary 2020].
[ 3 ]Ratshomo, K., 2018. South African Energy Report, Pretoria: Department of Energy.
[ 4 ] Farm Energy, 2019. Introduction to Biodiesel. [Online]
Available at: https://farm-energy.extension.org/introduction-to-biodiesel/
[Accessed 1 Febuary 2020].
[ 5 ] Farm Energy, 2019. Warm Climate Feedstocks for Biodiesel. [Online]
Available at: https://farm-energy.extension.org/warm-climate-feedstocks-for-biodiesel/
[Accessed 1 Febuary 2020].
[ 6 ] Sarkar, N., Ghosh, S.K., Bannerjee, S. and Aikat, K., 2012. Bioethanol production from agricultural
wastes: an overview. Renewable energy, 37(1), pp.19-27.
By Amy Grundling
A business plan is a road-map that indicates the necessary steps that must be implemented to ensure future successes. The key to an efficient business plan is in the quality of the outlay, i.e. no spelling mistakes, correct grammar usage, appropriate language use and the structure etc.
Important subjects need to be addressed in a business plan. This includes a description of the business, a strategic plan, an operational plan, a market analysis, a financial plan and a risk analysis. When writing a business plan, it is important to consider who your target audience is. The target audience will be influenced by the reason the business plan is written.
A few reasons include:
This is an example of a business plan layout and what should be included in it:
1. Cover Page
Full name of the business
Physical and postal address
Telephone and fax numbers, email address
Date of plan
2. Table of Content
List of headings & page numbers
Graphs, figure and tables
3. Executive Summary
Purpose of the Business Plan
4. Description of the farming Business
5. Strategic Plan
Vision, Mission & Goals
-Scan the Environment:
• Close competitors
-Industry and Market Analysis:
• Market Share
• Size of the industry
• Critical Issues
• Social Environment
• SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
6. Operational & Product Plan
(Ownership and organisational structure)
Farm map and land use
Facilities and land use
Production choice and processes
Production and operations schedule
Value chain analysis
7. Marketing Plan
Describe the six P’s:
8. Organisation and Staffing Plan
Sourcing of staff
Structure & Responsibilities
Brief job description
Short CV’S of senior management (in annexure)
9. Financial Plan
Identify source of funding
Evaluation of alternatives
10. Risk Planning
Identification of risk:
Risk mitigation strategies
Structured Risk Analysis
Sensitive analysis on Pricing and Production
11. Implementation and Monitoring
Develop an implementation plan and to-do list
Responsibilities and timeline
Establishing monitoring and control checkpoints
Feedback and evaluations dates
12.List of References
By Amy Grundling
Market intervention schemes providing support to farmers were implemented internationally for decades. State support grew stronger in the 1930’s with the aim to mitigate the negative effect of the economical great depression. The interventions were enabled by the Marketing Act which was one of the most controversial pieces of economic legislation in the history of South African agriculture. It was first enacted in 1937 (Act 27 of 1937) and amended in 1968.
During the late 1990’s South Africa went through radical political and economical reform. The Marketing Act of 1968 did not comply to the new social, political and economical needs of the new democratic South Africa. The new Marketing of Agricultural Products Act, Act 47 of 1996 was therefore developed.
The Marketing of Agricultural Products Act of 1996 (MAP), which replaced the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1968, liberalized the South African agriculture sector. The Agricultural Marketing Act of 1968 gave the government total control over the domestic and trade market. Partial reforms accrued during the 1980's and early 1990's, but it was only in 1994-97 when radical reform took place after South Africa’s firs democratic elections.
Before the radical reform took place in the agricultural sector, the Marketing Act (1968) enabled the Minster of Agriculture to promulgate marketing schemes which was administered by control boards. The control boards had varies power such as: implementing fixed prices, marketing quotas, fixed transport tariffs, levies on products, registering produces, traders and processors and legally being the sole buyer or seller. These controlled agricultural schemes created problems in South Africa’s economy and food security. Examples of these problems were the limited market access of previously disadvantaged people, the negative impact on other sectors such as the transport industry, the increase of input cost, destroying surplus yields to control prices and eliminating competitive pressure.
These market limitations caused the South African agricultural sector to lose their competitive advantage. Therefore, it was not only the domestic market that was negatively influenced but also the export market. These were the driving forces for the radical reform that took place in 1994. The new Marketing of Agricultural Products Act (1996) reduced state intervention in marketing and product prices in the agricultural sector.
The new Act abolished all the schemes of the 1968 Act and appointed the National Agriculture Marketing Council (NAMC) in the place of the control boards. The role of the NAMC is to advise the Minister of Agriculture in the decision-making process. The first council comprised of 10 members was established on 6 January 1997. The liberalization of the agriculture sector created a free market system that is driven by supply and demand to dictate the market prices.
The Uruguay Round Agreement of Agriculture (URAA), required the South African government to decrease government support. The aim of the URAA was to enable World Trade Organization (WTO) members to trade without causing fluctuations in market prices and failure of export earnings. Through the MAP Act direct controls over imports were replaced by tariffs, which were set according to the bound rated of the URAA and eliminating government control over exports.
The withdrawal of support from the commercial farmers pressured the agricultural sector, while deregulation of input and services. According to the Organisation for Economic Coperation and Development (OECD) report, which was published in 2006, this effected the large changes in the market, which included:
However, the limited state support agreed in the URAA and MAP Act creates an unequal playing field due to WTO countries that do to follow the agreement. Today, many of the WTO countries’ farmers still receives subsidies from their governments. This causes an unequal playing field between these countries. For example, European farmers are paid per liter milk and conservation subsidies by the European Union. This caused them to sell their products at a lower market price as the South African farmers. These agreements make it more difficult to obtain protection against unfair trade practices.
The South African government needs to re-evaluate the position of our agricultural sector. It is important for government support in a free market system to ensure that trade agreements and policies benefit South Africa’s agricultural sector and not limiting it.
By Amy Grundling
The Carbon Tax Act came into effect from 1 June 2019, aiming to decrease South Africa’s carbon emissions. The Carbon Tax Act will contribute towards achieving the objectives of the National Climate Change Response Policy of 2011 (NCCRP) and South Africa’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.
The NCCRP provides the general policy structure for facilitating the transition to a low carbon and climate resilient economy. In order to achieve these objectives, the South African government uses Carbon Tax to change the market behaviour of the consumers and producers. As indicated in the Explanatory Memorandum on the Carbon Tax Bill of 2018, an emissions trading system (ETS) is currently unsuitable due to the dominance of the carbon emissions by only a few oligopolistic companies. Tax is also a financial instrument that is much easier to administer and regulate.
A headline carbon tax of R120 will be levied on fuel combustion, industrial processes and fugitive emissions, for every tons CO2 emission above the allowable threshold. However, during the first phase a relatively low carbon tax ranging between R6 and R48 per tons of CO2 will be allocated. The low carbon tax rate the result of the following allowances:
The low carbon tax rate and the exemption of the electricity sector allows companies to transition to cleaner technology before the second phase starts. From 1 January 2023, the second phase of carbon taxation will come into effect, by increasing the headline carbon tax rate of R120 annually by consumer price inflation (CPI).
The Agriculture Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sectors are also exempt from the first implementation phase, due to measurement difficulties. Therefore, carbon tax will only affect the agriculture sector indirectly through higher fuel prices. The increased fuel prices will have a great effect on our food prices due to the long distances agricultural products usually needs to travel in the value chain. Not only will the increased food prices influence South Africa’s food security but also farmers profit margins due to increased input cost.
Decreasing carbon emissions is a priority that all countries should partake in. However, the South African government needs to administer and allocate the extra carbon tax revenue wisely. The carbon tax revenue should be reinvested to promote and excel a greener economy that will benefit all South Africans.
By Adelene van Zyl
What is Sustainability?
Sustainability can be defined as the ability to be maintained at a specific level. It is important that the current generation should provide and maintain sufficient resources for future generations to live at the same economic and environmental level as the current generation does. In addition, sustainability entails maintaining changes in a balanced environment. The Earth has a certain carrying capacity in order to function at a good and healthy rate. When we exceed the carrying capacity of the Earth, we are no longer sustainable and put current and future generations at risk of depleting resources.
Sustainability is divided into three main components according to the World Summit of Social Development in 2005. The three components are economic development, social development and environmental protection. Sustainable development will only be effective if these components are interlinked. Sustainability will only attract investments if it promotes economic growth. By increasing economic growth, living standards in communities will be improved. In order for higher living standards to be sustainable, environmental protection and resource management must be applied.
The United Nations also saw sustainability as a key component in moving forward in unity, when 178 countries adopted Agenda 21 for Sustainable Development at the Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro in 1992. There are seventeen Sustainable Development Goals in the 2030 Agenda of which ten out of these seventeen goals involve agricultural practices. These goals are:
Sustainability in Agriculture
The main goal of sustainability in agriculture is to meet the current food and textile needs without compromising future generations’ ability to meet their food and textile needs. Sustainability in agriculture aims to improve soil health, decrease pollution and to improve the use of water in farming practices. It also aims to increase crop quantity and quality in an efficient and effective manner, without degrading the environment.
In conclusion, I would like to encourage you with a quote from Arthur Ashe to apply sustainability:
“Begin where you are, use what you have, and do what you can.”
Creators of the video: Adelene van Zyl, Amy Grundling, Calvin Cornell, Kaylin Dickson, Prince Lekame Moloto and Renée Grundling