Interventions for rural communities improve drought resilience

by Deon Schlechter

Interventions for rural communities improve drought resilience

Windhoek

Improved measures to cope with drought events and funding for mitigation of drought effects to build resilience were key topics during the second day of the week-long African Drought Conference on Tuesday.

Delegates were in agreement that better communication for early warning mechanisms on national, regional and continental level for droughts was of importance, as well as funding for mitigation efforts reaching rural communities in villages, which was often late or lacking altogether.



“We could investigate if existing national environmental funds could be utilised to become the catalysts for drought aid, but they should be appropriately capitalised to assist rural communities during drought,” said Environmental Commissioner in Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism Teo Nghitila.

With droughts also contributing to land degradation, food production is likely to decrease due to lower agricultural yields by 15 to 50 percent until 2050 in most countries, especially in Africa, said Almami Dampha, senior policy officer at the African Union Commission on Tuesday.

“Desertification, land degradation and drought, known as DLDD, directly affects the majority of the poor in Africa,” Dampha told delegates.

The conference noted that a clear link exists between peace, security, development and access to, as well as control of land resources.
In Namibia, a significant aspect of land degradation is bush encroachment. About 26 million hectares of arable farmland in Namibia have become unusable due to several invader bush species that are encroaching valuable land, thus reducing its carrying capacity.

Several large-scale experiments are being undertaken in Namibia to root out invader bush with special machinery. One innovative way is to shred the bushes, which are then used as biomass to fire the kiln at Namibia’s cement factory near Otavi, some 350 km north of the capital Windhoek.

The suitability for farming of the areas regained from invader bush improves quickly, with valuable grass species growing again to provide grazing for livestock. Crop production can take place.

Another innovative way is to use invader bush species as a valuable resource, namely animal fodder. Several Namibian farmers have decided to turn invader bush into an opportunity as animal feed.

“The results of these pioneer activities are remarkable and prove that bush-based feed works – especially during drought periods – as emergency feed, but also as supplement feed during rainy seasons,” the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) stated. More research is, however, necessary.

A ‘Support to De-bushing Project’ in Namibia is underway and jointly implemented by Germany’s cooperation agency, GIZ, and Namibia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF).

Research is being conducted to optimise bush-based feed production. Two pilot projects have been set up, one in a communal area and a second one at a commercial farm. The pilot activities include the laboratory analysis of encroacher species found at the pilot sites, as well as feed production and intensive feeding trials.

The MAWF has also engaged in a programme to conserve and promote the use of indigenous genetic plant resources.
New drought-tolerant cultivars have been developed in collaboration with international partners, among them UNDP. The MAWF launched the programme with a ten-year action plan at a side event during the African Drought Conference.

The official framework ‘Drought Resilient and Prepared Africa’ (DRAPA) will have six elements: drought policy and governance for drought risk management; drought monitoring and early warning; drought vulnerability and impact assessment; drought mitigation, preparedness and response; knowledge management and drought awareness, and reducing underlying factors of drought risk.

Today the high level segment of the conference will start with the keynote address delivered by President Hage Geingob. The African Drought Conference is expected on Friday, August 19, to adopt the new strategic framework by means of the ‘Windhoek Declaration on Drought Resilience in Africa’.

The conference that ends today is being organised by Namibia, with financial and logistical support from the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

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