Agriculture is a critical component of national and sub-national economies, yet it is also highly vulnerable to weather extremes and scarce water resources. Climate change is increasing disaster risks in Southern Africa. Despite progress on integrated climate change and disaster risk management frameworks, the 2015/2016 El Niño linked drought severely affected the region. The focus remains on disaster relief rather than on risk reduction and adaptation for longterm resilience. A case study for the Western Cape province of South Africa indicates that improved drought resilience can be observed where sustainable land management practices have been taken up by farmers. Further progress is contingent on strengthened co-operation across all tiers of government and across sectors, adequately resourced relief funds, availability of financial mechanisms for post-drought recovery and the clearing of bureaucratic bottlenecks that hamper adaptive water planning. Local experiences and stakeholder participation are essential for appropriately contextualised adaptation planning.