The Namibian economy stands to reap N$42 billion over a 20-year period due to productivity increases in the agriculture sector if the country utilises encroacher bush, which is available in great abundance.
This is the view of Dagmar Hὅnsbein, executive director of the Namibian Biomass Industry Group (N-BIG), who made the revelation yesterday when she presented a case study about bush encroachment at the 20th National Rangeland Forum that is being held at a lodge near Windhoek.
Hὅnsbein says bush encroachment and the wood-based biomass sector go hand-in-hand, like a problem goes hand-in hand with an innovative solution.
With an estimated 26 to 30 million hectares of bush-encroached land (with some more recent studies suggesting that the figure is closer to 45 million hectares) Namibia could clear the path to prosperity and rake in excess of N$40 billion over the next 20 years.
“The realisation of this substantial economic gain is only limited by the scale of harvesting and utilisation of our bush resource and the timeframe of such utilisation.
“Other direct and indirect requirements for sustainable bush utilisation include technology development, market development, capacity building, and job creation, commensurate with wealth creation,” she noted.
In 2015-16, the demand for invader bush biomass and related products stands at an estimated 200 000 tonnes per annum, which equates to approximately 0.08 percent of the national annual potential.
Additionally, only 32 percent of the current demand is being met, due primarily to supply constraints. Demand is expected to grow exponentially, driven by further export market development.
The existing biomass sector focuses on primary production, with few activities occurring in terms of further value addition. This also relates to limited mechanisation or technological advancement.
“The Namibia Biomass Industry Group (N-BIG) strives to become the leading repository of knowledge and information for the biomass sector, in order to help coordinate and facilitate growth and diversification within the industry, with the intention of overcoming the existing supply side constraints.
“The N-BIG case studies that were presented yesterday will offer an overview of the industrial uses of biomass from encroacher bush currently underway, as well as act to demonstrate an improved system of bush control and bush utilisation in relation to maximising the economic benefits derived from this untapped national resource,” she said.
Turning to proving the value of encroacher bush-based fodder as livestock feed, she says livestock contribute at least 75 percent of the total agricultural output in Namibia, with beef production being the most important activity.
However, the number of livestock in the country depends on the annual rainfall and the overall carrying capacity of rangelands.
Bush encroachment poses a further challenge for beef producers, as Namibia is affected by bush encroachment on a massive scale, which has lowered the livestock carrying capacity of rangelands by up to two thirds.
As part of the national programme for bush clearance, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, in collaboration with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, through the GIZ, is implementing the Support to De-Bushing Project.
“This joint project is aimed to strengthen the restoration of productive rangeland in Namibia through the identification of value chain opportunities in order to trigger large-scale de-bushing activities; one of them being the bush-based animal feed production,” he notes.
Currently, an animal feed pilot project is underway to provide evidence for the use of bush as an animal feed ingredient and to develop a model for others. The animal feed pilot project began in April and will run until May 2017.
The pilot project builds on existing farmers’ knowledge and the assessment of bush-based fodder from nutritional and economic standpoints.
The field research includes various pilot sites and aims to assess the whole value chain through relevant research trials and analytical data.
The pilot phase focuses on two main objectives. firstly it aims to assess the animals’ performance when fed different bush-based rations and mixtures, which comprise of locally available ingredients and supplements; and to assess the nutritional quality of the common encroacher bush species found at and around the pilot sites, and how the quality is affected by season and their storage in a processed form.
Additionally, the nutritional quality of prepared mixtures to be used for the pilot trials will also be analysed.