Can rangeland producers manage better for climatic variability and change? That was the question Hugh Pringle, Polytechnic of Namibia and Ecosystem Management Understanding (EMU) and expert on Namibian rangeland preservation, answered during the recently held 19th Rangeland Forum in Otjiwarongo.
With the title “Perspectives and initiatives from Australia,” Pringle gave an overview of southern-central Australian situation which is comparable to Namibian situations in many regards, asking the question: Is there room for improvement in fitting current climatic variability in Australia and Namibia and is lack of available information a problem?
Pringle also questioned whether adapting to current variability is enough to adapt to
climate change, presenting the audience with some ideas about adaptation across the supply chain. He stressed that lower rainfall results in higher variability and greater challenges.
His key predictions for southern and central Australia (and also Namibia) are warmer average temperatures, more extreme heat days, increased CO2, less predictable rainfall and bigger rainfall events, longer dry spells.
“Rainfallis is perhaps going to be the most influential change, but is the
most difficult to predict,” he noted.
He says possible impacts will be more and bigger dongas draining productive veld, increased pressure on water supplies for humans and livestock, better conditions for bushes than grasses, lower quality forage where rainfall increases, lower quality forage where rainfall increases, more frequent and longer feed deficit periods, poorer feed quality, heat stress on animals, and increased financial stress on non-sustainable, inflexible farmers.
Answering the question whether there is room for improvement in fitting current climatic
Variability, he quoted some lead Central Australian pastoralist’s view who want to know why
Some farmers are making money selling fat cattle when their neighbours are receiving drought subsidies for poor management, and why are taxpayers subsidising poor management?
He quoted pastoralist David McQuie’s perspective who says nNature always gives you early warning signals well before Government “best practice” indicators.
“Good rangeland management requires more emphasis on listening to the land and less on
measuring or counting things. You should know when things are getting tight and have your drought plan ready to go, and review stocking rate before each main season,” he says.
Another Australian pastoralist, Ken Shaw’s view is to accept that climate change is happening and that we have to adap. “Most of the institutional and policy barriers can be overcome by good supply/value chain management on property,” he notes.
Michael Clinch from Australia was quoted as saying forage availability must be taken very seriously, and true recovery periods, especially for key pastures. He stressed the importance of rebuilding forage machine (farm) where it is damaged, and reminded farmers to take responsibility, what happens.
Pastoralist Greg Brennan’s view and ex extension leader in Australia, says It’s mostly about feed budgeting – forage to stocking rate budgeting – forage to stocking rate.
Chris Turner and David Oag’sviews (Manager and Inspector, Pastoral Unit,
South Australia) say many pastoralists have improved their “fit” with climate variability considerably and recognise increased frequency and intensity of extremes. They recommend; early selling, conservative stocking rates, turn off younger stock, more flexible, and shift to hardier breeds.
Pringle says social factors, rather than lack of information, is the challenge to address low adoption of adaptation strategies. “Strategic business and environmental skills are
key barriers, as well as capital to learn, and promotion of short-term economic and longer
term economic, environmental and social benefits of climate-sensitive decision-making.
YES!!!, there is plenty of room for Improvement!, he concludes.