This was the consensus reached at last week’s three-day National Conservation Agriculture (CA) Shareholders’ Workshop held in Windhoek where it transpired that CA with its natural approach to minimal mechanical soil disturbance and maintaining soil cover in a diversified cropping system might just be the way out of food insecurity for Namibia. Some 550 000 Namibians are currently in urgent need of food as changing climate patterns, with floods, droughts and prolonged dry spells are becoming more frequent and temperatures rise steadily.
Speaker after speaker emphasised this and stressed the importance of the partnership between the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and local and international partners to promote CA via government’s newly launched N$94 million Comprehensive CA Programme.
CA aims to conserve, improve and make more effective use of natural resources through the integrated management of available water, soil, and biological resources, combined with purchased external inputs. It contributes to environmental conservation and enhances and sustains agricultural production. It is also a resource-efficient and resource-effective type of agriculture.
The majority of Namibian households rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods and improper agricultural practices reduce the ability of ecosystems to provide food and other services.
MAWF believes that efforts to promote food security and environmental sustainability reinforce each other and enable all farmers to adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change and other stresses. CA is considered to be an ecologically suitable basis for sustainable production intensifications.
Christof Brock, chief executive officer of the Namibia Agronomic Board, pointed out that CA is based on the principles of rebuilding the soil and maintaining its productive health, optimising crop production inputs and labour, as well as productivity and profit gains.
He, however, warned that there is “no one size fits all” recipe for CA as different environments require different applications of the basic methods of the system. He best summed up the workshop when he said it is the “renaissance” of all previous efforts to establish CA in Namibia.
All participants at the workshop agreed that the social and economic benefits gained from combining production targets and protecting the environment, including reduced input and labour costs with CA, are greater than those derived from targeting production alone.
The conclusion was that CA involves the integration of ecological management of the natural resource base with scientifically modern agricultural production and therefore holds the key to ensure food security in the future.