The latest official statistics reveal that cattle numbers in the Northern Communal Areas (NCAs) have increased to 1.6 million whilst livestock numbers south of the Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF) have decreased to 1.2 million cattle, largely as a result of rangeland degradation and bush encroachment.
According to the recently published booklet “Creating Rural Wealth – Sustainable Agriculture in the Communal Areas,” productivity remains very low in the NCAs, despite the vast increase in cattle numbers. This is a result of the over-utilisation of the resource and land degradation with meat markets still largely being supplied from south of the VCF. Similarly, the livestock sector contributes 76 percent of the total agricultural output in the country, but only six percent of this is generated from the NCAs.
“Farmers’ livestock records are not reliable or not available. However, anecdotal reports and estimates by farmers from the NCAs state that livestock losses to the value of N$200 000 to N$500 000 per year per water point are the order of the day,” the repor states.
Changing farmers’ attitudes towards more proactive management and marketing of their cattle is critical. “Locally-based institutions such as livestock production and marketing co-operatives, as well as local and regional government will play a key role in bringing about the necessary changes in attitude that are required at the local, regional and national levels. “With regard to climate change, Namibia is specifically vulnerable as recurrent droughts and floods are expected to occur. Climate models predict that when rainfall comes, it is likely to be in bursts of greater intensity, leading to erosion and flood damage. Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) model simulations for Namibia, indicate that within 20 years annual losses as a result of the impact of climate change on natural resources could reach p to five percent of GDP. This will affect the poorest people the most with resulting constraints on employment opportunities and declining wages, especially for unskilled labour in rural areas,” the report warns.
Namibia’s Fourth National Development Plan (NDP4), has identified high and sustained growth, increased income equality and employment creation as its three primary goals. Government has pledged to support agriculture as a strategic sector over the NDP4 period due to its growth and employment-generation potential. “Apart from the developmental objectives, Namibia must take steps to ensure that all its policies and activities are climate proofed and that it has a strategy to deal with displaced farmers and farm workers,” the report notes.