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Multi-criteria suitability analysis for neglected and underutilised crop species in South Africa

, Vimbayi G. P. Chimonyo, Mbulisi Sibanda, Richard Kunz, Luxon Nhamo, Cecelia R. Masemola, Caroline Dalin, Albert T. Modi,
Published: 19 January 2021
PLOS ONE , Volume 16; doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0244734

Abstract: Several neglected and underutilised species (NUS) provide solutions to climate change and creating a Zero Hunger world, the Sustainable Development Goal 2. Several NUS are drought and heat stress-tolerant, making them ideal for improving marginalised cropping systems in drought-prone areas. However, owing to their status as NUS, current crop suitability maps do not include them as part of the crop choices. This study aimed to develop land suitability maps for selected NUS [sorghum, (Sorghum bicolor), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), amaranth and taro (Colocasia esculenta)] using Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) in ArcGIS. Multidisciplinary factors from climatic, soil and landscape, socio-economic and technical indicators overlaid using Weighted Overlay Analysis. Validation was done through field visits, and area under the curve (AUC) was used to measure AHP model performance. The results indicated that sorghum was highly suitable (S1) = 2%, moderately suitable (S2) = 61%, marginally suitable (S3) = 33%, and unsuitable (N1) = 4%, cowpea S1 = 3%, S2 = 56%, S3 = 39%, N1 = 2%, amaranth S1 = 8%, S2 = 81%, S3 = 11%, and taro S1 = 0.4%, S2 = 28%, S3 = 64%, N1 = 7%, of calculated arable land of SA (12 655 859 ha). Overall, the validation showed that the mapping exercises exhibited a high degree of accuracies (i.e. sorghum AUC = 0.87, cowpea AUC = 0.88, amaranth AUC = 0.95 and taro AUC = 0.82). Rainfall was the most critical variable and criteria with the highest impact on land suitability of the NUS. Results of this study suggest that South Africa has a huge potential for NUS production. The maps developed can contribute to evidence-based and site-specific recommendations for NUS and their mainstreaming. Also, the maps can be used to design appropriate production guidelines and to support existing policy frameworks which advocate for sustainable intensification of marginalised cropping systems through increased crop diversity and the use of stress-tolerant food crops.
Keywords: sustainable agriculture / climate change / South Africa / land use / agriculture / Crops / food / sorghum

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