The local seasonal rainfall forecast for Namibia remains bleak at this stage. Most parts of the country will receive normal to below-normal rainfall over the coming rainy season, which started in October and usually ends April. Presently temperatures across the Pacific Ocean are higher than normal which suggests the existence of an El Niño. This event typically has the effect of reduced rainfall in Namibia and most of southern Africa. The current El Niño is reported to be the strongest since the record El Niño of 1997/98, which also created a drier than normal rainy season for most parts of Namibia.
Reports from the Namibia Meteorological Services indicate that due to the change in weather patterns, abnormally prolonged dry spells are expected across Namibia, which hampers support for agricultural production.
According to Ben Haraseb: Deputy Director of Agriculture, Production Extension & Engineering Services (DAPEES) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF): “Prevailing grazing conditions are very poor as a result of the low rainfall received. Over the entire region, grasses are mostly below 15 mm high and consist only of dry, hard stems that are low in nutrition and not enough in quantity to provide for a full diet. Therefore animals are very lean and in many cases weak.”
With these prevailing issues at our doorstep, a recent Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO) Congress conference addressed the issue of “Smart Farming”. At the event, Jaco Hanekom of the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) said: “Looking at a production cost index, it is clear that cattle farmers will have to farm 7% more effectively every year and sheep farmers 2% more efficiently, to break even. With the limitation of vertical expansion due
to land reform, farmers will have to be more resourceful to reach this objective.”
Bertus Kruger, Agra ProVision’s Technical Advisor for Rangeland Management, reflected on the importance and relevance of the project. “Current veld conditions are poor and mainly dominated by annual grasses. Over the long term, there is a need to improve the condition and productivity of the veld by preventing soil erosion and nutrient depletion, improving water infiltration, improving veld condition by increasing the proportion of perennial grasses, and addressing the negative effects of bush encroachment. Therefore, it is imperative that organisations like Agra ProVision and Agri-Ecological Services work on educating the stakeholders and creating smart methods to assist and help the farming community of Namibia.”