Omuthiya – The state of livestock farming in the northern communal areas (NCAs) is said to be worrisome as it is deteriorating tremendously with little possibility of change, and is characterized by poor animal productivity and extremely low off-take levels.
In addition to this is the excessive cattle numbers that are coupled with lack of management systems and NCA rangeland degradation status.
This was said by Goliath Tujendapi, the manager for trade and strategic marketing, Meat Board of Namibia, on Friday at the closure of five days training for 22 agricultural extension officers from Oshikoto, Oshana and Ohangwena regions.
The training focused on rangeland management practices, licks supplementation and basic livestock health in the NCAs.
“The workshop has been organized with one aim – to capacitate the agricultural technicians with livestock related skills, be it production, basic animal health supplementation feeding or livestock marketing, for them to advise farmers technically and accordingly. No farmer wants to be visited if the technical know-how is not provided, especially when it concerns the health of their animals,” he stated.
“Cattle numbers that were 280 000 in the early 1980s increased to 630 000 in 1990. This figure jumped to 1.2 million in 2006 and further to 1.6 million in 2012. There is a possibility that the number has reduced tremendously due to existing prolonged drought conditions. This is a critical condition and all role players from grass-root level to national level need to put all our efforts into assisting our farmers,” said Tujendapi, in emphasising the significance of the training.
The training comes amid a study on market diversification, which was undertaken in 2011 by the Meat Board of Namibia through Agra Provision that recommended the formulation of the NCA’s Livestock Marketing Master Plan.
This was in consultation with various stakeholders, including the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry.
The study revealed challenges faced by farmers such as the lack of marketing strategies and production, and it urges farmers to shift from crop production to livestock oriented farming.
Tujendapi explained that “the goal of the NCA Master Plan is to enhance cattle market off-take from northern Namibia whose eight regions are blessed with huge livestock wealth and vast expanses of rangelands, yet livelihoods of farmers continue to remain far behind compared to those of their compatriots south of the veterinary cordon fence (VCF).”
He said one way to improve the cattle market off-take is to build capacity of farmers by strengthening and delivering livestock technical-based extension services.
The next training sessions will be conducted at Divundu to accommodate Zambezi and the two Kavango regions, while Omusati and Kunene will be next.
Meanwhile, the training facilitator Gunther Roebers noted that the training was imperative because it shifts the technicians from theory to practical.
“We might know the theories but the challenge remains as to execute the practical part, thus that was the focus of the training, such as the use of different remedies for diagnosed animal health issues and the amount of dosage as per the disease or health state of the animal,” said Roebers.