New age of Conservation Agriculture has dawned

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Windhoek

The world has taken notice of Namibia’s success in implementing crop farming methods such as Conservation Agriculture (CA) to promote food security in its quest to enable farmers to adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change and other stresses.

The favourable outcome of the recent first National CA Stakeholders’ Workshop was responsible for the message being conveyed to the outside world via partners, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and the German Gesellshaft for Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). Much of what was shared at the workshop will be published by these partners in their regular information and newsletters, and Namibia is already hailed for taking the initiative to stage such a workshop.

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, as was explained first-hand by communal crop farmers during the workshop. Namibia is regarded as the seventh most vulnerable country in the world when it comes to climate change, and adapting to CA in its various forms could be the saviour of future generations.

The constraints that hinder adoption of CA must be understood and addressed for specific situations. These can include a combination of intellectual, social, financial, biophysical, technical, infrastructure constraints, or policy related support. Knowing what the bottlenecks are is important in developing strategies to overcome them.

It was noted that crisis situations are likely to become more frequent as a result of climate change, and the political will to create more sustainable use of natural resources and perform environmental protection.

CA is still a relatively new concept in Namibia, whereas the majority of the world’s farmers practice conventional tillage-based farming. The CA concept might appear to be contradicting the culture of the common tillage-based farming experiences, but phenomenal results obtained by Namibian crop farmers in the Northern Communal Areas (NCAs) since 2012 proved the success of CA for once and for all with record mahangu yields, even in times of drought.

Locally generated experimental data is also in abundance and a Namibian student in Germany even completed his Master’s degree on CA practices in Namibia. The message is loud and clear that CA works but CA practices must always be developed locally, depending on the specific farming and agro-ecological conditions. Significant numbers of small scale farmers in the north have already adopted CA practices but they need access to competent technical assistance and long-term support initiatives (including credit at affordable rates) to purchase or share a minimum set of tools, inputs and machinery. Mutual indulgence by all role players and stakeholders is thus a prerequisite to combine efforts and resources and achieve set national targets.

FAO representative Babagana Ahmadu is pleased that the recent workshop succeeded in achieving its initial goals, and praised Namibia’s government for its political will to introduce CA on a national scale via the recently launched Comprehensive Conservation Agriculture Programme to the tune of N$94 million. He is confident that partnership between the government and the private stakeholders can not only improve the food security of those who are hungry but create new opportunities for the people of Namibia to shape their land for a better future.

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