Livestock farmers can predict a drought in May of each year. They can also easily and cheaply estimate fodder annually. They know their animal numbers and they know how much the animals will eat each day. They can, therefore, calculate when the fodder will run out in any given dry season.
These givens in proper rangeland management, as the most vital part of farming in Namibia, were spelled out to stakeholders and farmers during the recent public dialogue session, arranged by the Namibian National Farmers Union, in conjunction with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.
“Farmers know for any given dry season whether they are overstocked or understocked and the earlier they take action the better for the enterprise/constituency, region or country,” foremost rangeland expert Colin Nott explains.
As one of the keynote speakers at the dialogue, Nott said current livestock management practices in Namibia will result in more severe droughts over time, as the resource base – such as soil and grazing conditions – degrades further.
“We know what is needed to get fodder production back to its potential and we have the Namibian Rangeland Management System in place to enable this. If we work together and plan together we will succeed in addressing the root cause of our droughts, which is fodder production,” he notes.
Nott says the fodder shortage can be slight, moderate or severe and each classification requires increasingly drastic – but immediate –management action.
He says, unlike in wetter climates, dry variable climates need to adapt to every seasons conditions: there is no recipe.
Nott notes that Namibia is the first dry/variable country to recognise that dry climates need the application of sound principles and not systems. He urges all stakeholders to actively support the implementation of the national rangeland management plan to restore rangelands.
“We must educate farmers/producers throughout the country on the need to apply the principles in the rangeland programme and consult producers widely throughout the country on how best to apply the principles under various social, and other settings.
“We must also develop Incentives – including the legal framework for communal lands – that lead to voluntary adoption and uptake of the principles of the programme, as well as ensure markets are able to cope with drought years, when severe fodder shortages over large areas requires farmers to sell livestock at the same time.
“We have to move away from current disincentives that encourage selling animals in poor condition for very poor prices and encourage investment in viable businesses in the communal lands,” he advised.