Exotic beef farming at crossroads?

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Windhoek

Farming in an arid country such as Namibia is a challenge at the best of times, and even more so if the sector is to contribute directly to the GDP and not only act as a social safety net. Highly industrialized parts of the world (countries such as Israel and states such as California) have demonstrated marked successes dealing with factors such as heat and limited rainfall; yet resource poor farmers and economies which depend for the most part on primary resources, such as Namibia, will find it difficult to emulate these advances in the short run. Already funding for the Green Scheme poses a major bottleneck in the implementation of the Scheme.

Whilst admitted uncertainties regarding the Namibian future crop production potential prevail , it seems fair to say that the stresses on the livestock sector will increase, particularly for small-scale farmers facing a lack of capital and skills to implement adaptation measures.

It appears as if the physiological thresholds for exotic beef cattle in Namibia is fast approaching, and due consideration can be given to the promotion of indigenous breeds, smallstock and/or wildlife. Smallstock does not thrive in all Namibian biomes though, and is more prone to theft. As population pressure grows conflicts over resources (the example of the outbreak of Rinderpest in Kenya described above) become more likely.

Bush encroachment has had a discernible effect on the national cattle herd in the past 40 years. With the projected increase of this phenomenon in the relative ‘good’ agricultural zones in Namibia (the north-eastern part of the country) it becomes a matter of national importance to address this issue, ideally seeking solutions to the benefit of the economy. As such, initiatives which utilize the bush should be identified and actively supported.

The IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development Environmental Economics Programme) predicts a decline of between 1,1% and 3,1% in Namibian GDP, based on a ‘best-’ and ‘worst-case’ scenario for the country. The activity share of cereal production is likely to decline by between 8,4% and 17%, livestock production is predicted to decline between 19% and 48,4%, whilst traditional (subsistence) agriculture is likely to suffer a decline between 33,5% and 74,6%. Commercial crop production, based on expectations resting on the Green Scheme, is suggested to increase by between 10,2% and 1,3% respectively for the two scenarios.

 

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