Monday, March 14, 2022

Western Cape Partners with California to Grow Agricultural Innovations

Photo via Western Cape Government

On Friday, the Western Cape Department of Agriculture and the Californian Department of Food and Agriculture signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote cooperation in agriculture between the provincial government and the United States. 

It may seem odd for the province of the Western Cape and the State of California to be partnering on something like agriculture. After all, the two are separated by more than 16 thousand kilometers. Despite that distance, however, they do share one major thing in common: their climates.

Both California and the Western Cape have what is known as a Mediterranean climate. Meaning they both have dry summers, mild winters and very rich soils; making both places ideal for agriculture. Its why they are each well known for their production of wine, figs, olives and more. 

California and the Western Cape are two out of the five total regions classified with this climate.

A partnership has been in the works since August of 2019 when the two agriculture departments originally met. And this weekend, the two governments signed a memorandum of understanding, or MoU, to talk about ways the two governments can work together in the space of green agriculture. 

The California Department of Food and Agriculture said the MoU focuses on shared issues such as drought, climate change and public policy barriers.

There are three main goals of the MoU: exchange of information about climate change best practices, joint research on water use efficiency and co-development of climate-smart agricultural technologies. 

More specifically, these goals of information exchange could look like joint webinars, online workshops and meetings between key stakeholders in both areas. The memorandum also hopes to create public-private partnerships to build out new technologies, and create meetings between the departments at least twice per year.

The memorandum does not exchange funds between the two areas. It is expected both governments will cover their own funds for their respective parts of the agreement.

The Premier of the Western Cape, Alan Winde, said the MoU  was monumental.

“I am very pleased that we have officially signed this MoU, which will pave the way for sustainable economic growth in both the Western Cape and California’s agricultural sectors," Winde said. "This is truly a historic day and I hope that the agreement will strengthen our bilateral relationship with the State of California and the Federal Government of the United States further.” 

Photo via Western Cape Government

Western Cape Provincial Minister of Agriculture, Ivan Meyer, said he believes the MoU aims to bolster food security and address environmental challenges. He said the document will benefit both the Western Cape and California in becoming more competitive in an increasingly global marketplace.

Meyer said he believes both regions have a lot to learn from one another, which can ultimately create innovation. He said the MoU provides a platform to for that innovation. 

Over the past year, trade relations between the Western Cape and the U.S. have increased by nearly 27 percent, making the U.S. the largest trading partner for the province. Meyer said this was especially impactful because the largest growth of trade came in the agricultural sector at 8.1 percent. 

"Innovation is one of our values," Meyer said. "Both regions can learn a lot from each other. The agricultural sector in the Western Cape and California both have Mediterranean climates and share many similarities and challenges related to production, climate, and soils. The MoU provides the platform to find innovative solutions to these challenges.”

The signing of the MoU yesterday follows several agreements between the Western Cape Government and various states in the United States. An MOU and Protocol with California was signed in 2001. This agreement, however, is currently dormant and the hope is the relationship between California and the Western Cape will be reignited by the signing of the MOU on Agriculture from this past weekend.

The Secretary of the Californian Department of Food and Agriculture, Karen Ross said this MoU is vital for the future approaches to climate change.

"California is pleased to join the Western Cape in furthering opportunities for farmers and ranchers in climate-smart agriculture," Ross said. "Our shared commitment to connect farmers, academia and government will help to expand on-farm adaptation of practices that benefit our natural and working lands.” 

Ross said the partnership is a great step forward for both countries because they each learn from one another. 

The memorandum was signed by both Meyer and Ross. Meyer said the Western Cape would soon become the best partner for California in the agricultural sphere.

Photo via Western Cape Government

Going forward, the Western Cape Government and the State of California aim to conduct Climate Smart Agricultural policy missions to each other’s countries. Both governments will contribute to relevant conferences, trade shows and other knowledge-sharing activities in California and the Western Cape. The two governments will also establish a plan of action to implement the goals of the MoU into official policy.

To view the full briefing and signing of the memorandum of understanding, visit the Western Cape Premiere, Alan Winde’s Facebook page

By Ben Rappaport

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