Driving home the stark reality of the current situation in the NCAs, Kuniberth Shamate and Uapi Kazahe of Conservation Agriculture Namibia (CAN) said on Wednesday that communal farmers are pinning their hopes on the Rangeland and Marketing Development Support Project (RMDSP) funded by the European Union to the tune of more than N$40 million.
RMDSP aims to bring about change in the NCAs’ degraded rangelands as a result of inappropriate land management.
In a presentation to a packed hall at the 20th National Rangeland Forum, they pointed out that inappropriate land management, infrastructure development and external factors, such as climate change have reduced carrying capacity, lowered animal production, soil erosion, bush encroachment, loss of perennial grasses and deforestation.
This is especially so when poor cropping method is practiced. Increased poverty and population puts alarming pressure on rangeland and the national economy. More than 600 000 Namibians are currently dependent on the government’s drought food aid programme.
Lack of livestock marketing in the NCAs, now under the animal cordon fence, is an integral challenge in addressing rangeland issues.
In an effort to address this, CAN in collaboration with Meatco Foundation as a lead applicant and six NCAs Regional Livestock Marketing Cooperatives (RLMCs), are implementing the RMDSP, funded by European Union under the 10th European Development Fund.
The programme is aimed at reducing the vulnerability of rural populations to the adverse impacts of climate change through further developing, testing and disseminating solutions and practices in rangeland, livestock, cropping and livestock marketing for climate change adaption in the NCAs.
CAN provides technical and administrative support to RLMCs. Since the inception of the programme there has been much progress in the implementation of activities, such as over-seeding, auctions, grazing area rangeland cluster training and local level land use.
Some of the communal farmers are holistically managing their resources and practicing planned grazing and combined herding, while others adopted strategic herding. The programme promoted collaboration with stakeholders, especially in mitigating the 2015 outbreak of Food and Mouth Disease (FMD).
Major challenges experienced include drought, FMD and livestock marketing.
“Among others, lack of livestock marketing in NCAs remains a major challenge affecting whole chain of production. There is an urgent need to devise a strategy to address NCAs’ livestock marketing, as the market is completely saturated,” Shamate and Kazahe pointed out.
However, because NCA farmers have nowhere to take their animals, the programme had been hard at work to improve rangelands and farming practices. But a lack of markets will forever be the Achilles Heel of NCA farmers if they are not able to compete in all the exciting international markets now opening up for Namibian producers.
“Change is desperately needed to realise the full potential of livestock and crop producers in the NCAs. Yields have been doubled using conservation agriculture, but these farmers need much more government input in the form of tractors, training and seeds. CAN has proven that we can feed ourselves. We don’t have to see 600 000 Namibians starving and some 180 000 tonnes of cereal being imported every year. We need action,” Shamate concluded.