Some two-thirds of arable land is expected to be lost in Africa by 2025.
In southern Africa this could lead net crop revenues to drop by as much as 90 percent. However, climate adaptation could reduce these adverse effects, says agriculture expert at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), Dr Mutjinde Katjiua.
Speaking at last week’s public dialogue on drought, hosted by the Namibian National Farmers Union (NNFU) in conjunction with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), Katjiua said rain-fed agriculture accounts for about 96 percent of total cropland, according to the World Bank.
He says a significant reduction in land suitable for rain-fed agriculture and crop production is also expected by the 2080s.
Elaborating on the economic impacts of droughts on crop farmers, he noted that commercial maize output in Namibia fell by 51 percent in 2013, while mahangu production fell by 41 percent that same year.
Maize output was up by 70 percent in 2014, while mahangu output was up by 48 percent in 2015, while maize output fell by 44 percent in 2015 and mahangu output fell by 59 percent in 2015.
Namibians facing hunger are expected to amount to 370 316 this year, while 118 000 faced with this dire situation in 2014/2015. During 2013/2014 the figure was 460 000 people.
He noted that low seed production increases the reliance of farmers on government seed subsidies, as was reported by New Era on February 24.
Dr Katjiua says the economic impact of prolonged drought on livestock production will be severely felt in arid and semi-arid lands and it is expected to expand by 5-8 percent, or 60-90 million hectares by the year 2100.
He says as part of the economic impact of drought on livestock, farmers in Namibia resorted to panic sales in times of drought and sales rose more than a 280 percent, while prices declined, such as in the Kunene Region where the price of cattle went down by as much as N$600 per animal.
“Holding onto livestock increases expenditure on feeds and licks. The drought caused livestock deaths and increased vulnerability, as well as emotional stress. Increases in production input prices led to the depletion of savings and reduced assets and savings saw increased vulnerability.
The macro-economic impact of drought resulted in increased government expenditure on relief to reach out to 600 000 people in 2015-2016 while it was 418 000 people in 2013, he observed.
In terms of export earnings in 2013/2014 Namibia also experienced a 47 percent decline in tonnage of meat exported, while food prices and inflation went up.
“Projected Namibian GDP (Gross Domestic Product) under three climate change impact scenarios from 2007 to 2050 suggest that annually up to six percent of GDP could be lost,” he stated.
Responding to the question as to what could be done? Katjiua said the answers lie in crop production sectors using efficient water use technologies and practicing hydroponics tunnel horticulture, as well as soil fertility management.
He concluded by saying the livestock production sector should focus on locally adapted breeds, while rangeland management systems must manage annual versus perennial grass components.
The focus should also be on governance, co-management and group management of land resources. “Namibia should make education and training a priority with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics programmes,” he said.