The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) 2015 World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) celebrations in Namibia, held last week at the Okashana Rural Development Centre in the Oshikoto region, focused on two main goals namely to attainment of food security for all through sustainable food systems and to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
The aim was to advocate for the recognition and strengthening of the link between these goals in post-2015 processes. Hunger is most prevalent in the developing country dry-land areas where water retention is poor, and the land is highly vulnerable to natural and human destructions. Therefore, the slogan for the Day was: No such thing as a free lunch. Invest in healthy soils.
“As the national focal point for the implementation of the UNCCD guided National Action Programme on desertification, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) choose to celebrate Conservation Agriculture (CA) as it is a practice which conserves and improves soils as well as a climate change adaptation method that increases yields even in drought years. We must invest in healthy soils and ensure that farmers are supported to switch from harmful farming practices to CA,” explained Ndapanda Kanime, Chief Conservation Scientist responsible for bio diversity and sustainable land management at the MET and one of the organizers of the event.
More that of the 80 of the 200 people in attendance were CA farmers and rip furrow service providers from the Kunene, Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana, Oshikoto, Kavango East, Kavango West and the Zambezi regions.
“The Day was absolutely fantastic. We learned a lot from the farmers’ and CA service providers’ presentations which covered the entire cycle of CA practices from land preparation to sowing, weeding and harvesting. When listening to the farmers representing all the northern communal land area regions it is clear that we have to do our outmost best to support the wide uptake of CA as yields are increased when improving degraded soils. The farmers are the witnesses to that. As we heard in the presentations, farmers made a strong call for CA to be practiced in each and every field from Kunene to Zambezi.” said Kanime.
CA farmer Alfred Tumelo from the Zambezi region stated in his presentation that “In the past we had to go to Zambia to see Conservation Agriculture. Now we are practicing it in Namibia. Come and visit us farmers and you will see.”
“I was pleasantly surprised to hear from the farmers themselves that thousands of farmers across the north are practicing CA. We heard from the farmers that they successfully produced enough food for their households, and even surplus for the market, in a drought year.” said Monika Shikongo, Chief Warden at the MET and also part of the organizing team. “It was very important and encouraging to see the strong support and dedication from the Deputy Minister and the Governor of the Oshikoto region to combat desertification. COP 12 is to be held in Turkey in October this year. As a country, we need to prepare to present what we have done to combat desertification and CA is a shining example, she noted.
The FAO recently released the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015 report. According to the report, 42.3% of Namibians are undernourished.
Tackling hunger requires a multi-faceted approach – from economic development, nutritional intake to managing natural disasters. Still, a focus on land is critical. More than 99.7% of our food calories come from the land. Desertification is a type of land degradation in which a relatively dry land region becomes increasingly arid, typically losing its bodies of water as well as vegetation and wildlife. It is caused by a variety of factors, such as climate change and human activities. Desertification and drought are significant global, ecological and environmental problems.
The Governor of Oshikoto region, Henock Kankoshi, in his welcoming remarks thanked the MET for choosing Oshikoto region for the celebration of the WDCD. The region is making strides when it comes to practicing CA with close to four hundred hectares under CA in the recent crop season and five rip furrow private sector service providers.
Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MWAF) representative Oswald Mwanyangapo, Chief of the Directorate of Agricultural Production, Extension and Engineering services (DAPEE) in Oshikoto region, presented the Comprehensive Conservation Agriculture Programme for Namibia, which is to be implemented by the MAWF.