Green gold-blue water: managing drought risks in avocado expansion in Africa


GCRF AgriFood Africa Innovation Awards Round 1


South Africa



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About the project

UK-registered Partner: Cranfield University – Jerry Knox
Africa-registered Partner: Westfalia Fruit Ltd – Thabo Mavundsa

Increasing climate variability, competition for water and drought risks pose a major threat to agricultural production, rural livelihoods and food security.

This short project focused on avocado production, its emergent water challenges and the strategies needed to make the avocado sector more resilient to a changing climate. A synthesis of literature was combined with biophysical and climate modelling to better understand the yield response of avocado to water and drought risks, and the impacts of droughts and future climate change on irrigation water demands.

The project identified 14 notable drought events that had seriously impacted on the avocado sector between 1990 and 2019 which had reduced water allocations needed to meet rising demands for irrigation to support expansion of this agri-export sector.

Adaptation measures to drought identified by the study included imposing reductions on licensed allocations, reducing per capita water use, expansion of existing reservoir storage capacities and rerouting domestic water return flows back into the river network to support downstream abstraction. Without adaptation, there could be a 50% increase in the frequency of the avocado sector exceeding its annual irrigation capacity in the Groot LetabaCatchment.


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