Windhoek – In a worst-case scenario, the climate of Windhoek in 2030 will be like the climate of Keetmanshoop today, and the climate of Rundu will be like that of Okahandja.
Two percent of Namibia’s farmers living south of today’s Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF) and farming in near-desert conditions can hardly be expected by 2030 to produce at the same level as today, notes foremost drought and desertification expert, Dr Albert Rothauge. He says most of southern Namibia’s sheep farmers will have switched to game ranching by then, producing venison, hosting hunters and eco-tourists because farming with wild game animals is just about the last enterprise that makes economic sense in very arid conditions.
“However, tourists will not want to see the degraded wastelands that characterise southern Namibia today making the restoration of arid landscapes and beautiful vistas a bigger priority than ever,” adds Rothauge.
Central Namibia’s cattle farmers will do well if they can still manage to farm with goats and sheep. With many already farming with game today, more will do so in the near future. Sensibly they can grow out weaner cattle to slaughter but it is not certain where the weaners would come from.
“Not from the Omaheke and Otjozondjupa regions because the climate will be too dry and variable to sustain cow-and-calf herds of cattle,” he observes.
Rothauge says breeding cows and raising weaner calves requires constant and reliable supply of roughage feed. The only area that might still have good fodder flow by 2030 might be the north central and north-eastern parts of Namibia, today’s northern communal areas.
“They will still be able to produce weaner calves to sell to farmers south of today’s VCF to grow out to slaughter. All the more reason to get rid of the VCF sooner rather than later,” he says.
Growing weaner cattle out to slaughter can be adapted to variable fodder flow much more easily than cow and calf systems. If the fodder flow declines due to drought, a grower farmer simply buys in fewer weaners than during good times, or sells growing stock at an earlier age (and lesser mass) than usual.
Today’s weaner calves sold to South African feedlots might be all livestock that central Namibian ranchers will be able to farm with in the near future. At least farmers will be able to keep and even grow the beef processing value chain (abattoirs and butcheries) in Namibia, providing more jobs and earning more money (foreign exchange).
“Climate change is expected to seriously impact fodder production in Namibia. Most of Namibia’s farm rangelands are already degraded and one can hardly expect these damaged rangelands to produce more fodder than they do today, or be restored more easily than we manage today,” says Rothauge.
“Farmers’ organisations and lead institutions will have to prepare their constituencies for these eventualities by raising awareness, training farmers to be more climate-smart and developing plausible alternative production methods,” he concludes.