21st Rangeland Forum:N$30 billion rescue shifts into high gear

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Staff Reporter

Windhoek-Namibia’s intention to restore its valuable rangelands is regarded as a ground-breaking project, which has earned the respect of international role players.

The N$30 billion initiative over the next 20 years is also viewed as an example of a government committed to the rehabilitation of degraded land and water bodies.

Role players will take another step to realise this dream when the 21st National Rangeland Forum is held in Otjiwarongo. The forum will focus on bush encroachment, effects of fire, rotational herd management and access to markets. Chief rangeland researcher of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Namibia Rangeland Management Policy and Strategy (NRMPS) Leon Lubbe said the ministry implemented the project in 2012.

The ministry is committed to the promotion and maintenance of the welfare of the people by adopting policies aimed at maintaining ecosystems, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and utilising living natural resources on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all Namibians.

Some 70 percent of the population is dependent on rangelands for its wellbeing. The current poor state of Namibia’s rangelands is due to soil erosion, overgrazing, bush encroachment and a drastic decline in the carrying capacity of the land. This situation negatively influences the livelihoods of a large portion of the country’s population, the profitability of livestock farming and the whole economy in general (The country possibly loses N$1.4 billion/annum).

A 30 percent drop in the production of course grains is expected by 2030 in southern Africa, and this highlights the important role of livestock in future. Therefore, the country needs to take stock of the situation to achieve the goals of the project and implement all the guiding principles of sound rangeland management to secure success.

Lubbe says this will mean an improvement in biodiversity since the correct utilisation of key plants, adequate recovery time for utilised plants, reclamation of denuded rangelands, erosion control, and the management of rangelands for heterogeneity rather than for homogeneity would have been applied.

The uptake of sustainable rangeland management practices by users in Namibia is far from optimal and various studies have revealed that the country’s production and resilience is at an all-time low.

Acknowledging this fact, the National Rangeland Strategy was implemented in 2015 for a four-year period with funding from the European Union (EU) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF).

The project focuses on four areas, namely communal areas, resettlement farms, game farms and commercial cattle and small stock production. Representatives of the MAWF, all three agricultural unions and experts serve on the committee established to lead the effort.

The ultimate objective of the project is to empower rangeland managers to increase their production and profitability, while rangeland productivity improves.

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