For most mainstream farmers, five hectares of land is a small area they would easily set aside as an experimental plot, but for Jason Cullen, it’s all he has.
Cullen is an urban fruit farmer on the periphery of Johannesburg. He has been farming organic pomegranates for almost a decade, and like thousands of other farmers across South Africa, his water challenges aren’t going anywhere.
Deciduous fruit farmers in the Eastern and Western Cape provinces are particularly affected due to crippling drought conditions, however a conference held late last year by organisation Hortgro, presented possible strategies and solutions for farmers to help mitigate the impact of the drought.
Some of the water saving measures included mulching, revisiting the design and planning of irrigation systems, restricting irrigation to the root zone and netting.
A number of these methods have been implemented on Cullen’s farm and eNCA’s Rianté Naidoo paid him a visit to see if they’re working in his favour.
Like many urban farms, the irrigation system on Cullen’s pomegranate plot is heavily reliant on borehole water. But conserving water and reducing its usage is not only about how much water is being pumped out of taps and boreholes.
“To reduce water usage, you must not have bad soil,” he says. “Nutrient rich soil loses its water a lot slower than dry soil. So no soil should be left exposed, something must grow on it to hold it and keep it there.”