The Fourth National Development Plan (NDP4) and its Agricultural Sector Execution Plan as well as the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry(MAWF)’s Strategic Plan (2014-2017) have identified Conservation Agriculture as an important contributor towards improved national food security, says the permanent secretary of the MAWF, Abraham Nehemia.
Nehemia pointed out the NDP4 strategic objective most relevant to the newly announced Comprehensive CA Programme of N$94 million.
• Desired Outcome 9 (D09) of the NDP4 which identifies the promotion of CA as one of the strategies to achieve real growth of four percent per annum for national agriculture.
• Capacitating stakeholders who are informed and educated
• Supporting emerging and resettled farmers and cooperatives.
• Putting coping mechanisms in place for addressing the adverse effects of climate change on production.
Nehemia says CA is an approach to manage agro-ecosystems for improved and sustainable productivity and food security while preserving and enhancing the resource base and the environment.
“CA is characterised by three linked principles ,namely continuous minimum mechanical soil disturbance, permanent organic soil cover and diversification of crop species grown in sequence and/or associations.”
The majority of households in Namibia rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods. The agricultural sector has been hit hard by changing climate conditions with prolonged dry spells since 2013. Nehemia says this has led to low production of major crops such as mahangu and maize.
To make matters worse, Namibian farmers have already been warned by various weather gurus that the current rain season – that started in October and is expected to end next April – might again only deliver average or below average rainfall.
“Low production levels throughout crop growing regions are partly as a result of erratic rainfall, increased soil and land degradation and poor farming practices. Soil erosion, loss of soil organic matter and soil structure and soil health resulting from soil tillage and exposed soil, compels Namibia to look for alternatives to reverse the process of soil degradation and decreasing productivity,” Nehemia states.
He lauds the MAWF for the launch of the CA programme in partnership with the European Union (EU), its Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur International Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), as well as other stakeholders for staging the recent first national workshop on CA, which brought together all stakeholders to build common understanding on CA and its national development agenda.