South Africa is the 12th largest producer of sugar in the world, producing 2.2 million tonnes per annum, of which approximately 50 percent is exported. The industry generates R3 billion per annum and consists of 47,000 sugar cane growers, most of which are small, medium, or micro enterprises (SMMEs).
Although cane production in South Africa declined 4 percent in 2007/8, the country maintains the 5th largest per capita consumption rates in the world. Sugar cane is one of the heaviest water consumers of any crop, placing significant pressure on natural water resources.
In South Africa, sugar cane is often planted too close to rivers, estuaries and wetlands, leading to soil erosion, wetland sedimentation, creation of pathways for alien species invasion, groundwater contamination and loss of critical biodiversity and other ecosystem services. Currently increasing global sugar prices are incentivising producers to expand crops, placing further pressure on South African ecosystems.
In response, WWF-SA, the Mondi Wetlands Project and the Noodsberg Canegrowers Association (with support from the South African Sugarcane Association, the South African Sugar Research Institute, the South African Cane Growers and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry) formed the Sustainable Sugarcane Farm Management System (SusFarMS) Initiative.
The SusFarMS initiative aims to reduce the South African sugar industry’s impact on biodiversity and ecosystems, through a guideline and an extension programme. The guideline is based in economic, social and environmental principles and includes a self-audit sheet. The SusFarMS is the basis of the Green Choice Living Farms Reference. To date more than 400 commercial farmers have committed to the implementation of SuSFarMS and the programme has received widespread industry and government support.
WEBSITE: Sustainable Sugarcane Farm Management System (SusFarMS) Initiative