Droughts are common features in the Namibian climate; thus, it is almost impossible for a season to pass without a part of Namibia being affected by drought. Even with these known facts, Namibian farmers are affected by drought every time it hit their areas, and this draws one conclusion – farmers fail to prepare for what to do if it does not rain.
This phenomenon can somewhat be blamed on farmers because they remain too hopeful at the beginning of every rainy season and do not prepare much for the dry season when there are time and resources.
Therefore, agricultural educators and extension services need to disseminate information on drought-coping strategies in summer and not wait for the drought to hit. They should also start teaching farmers what they could have done. By then, it will be late and it will cause more stress to farmers.
Furthermore, agricultural drought can be defined as a lack of precipitation or soil moisture for vegetation and crops to grow. But few farmers can attest they sometimes receive enough rain, yet they are affected by drought. In this case, the blame goes to how the individual manages his/her rangelands and cropping calendars for crop farmers.
In order to prepare for possible drought or the dry season – when natural fodder becomes less and for farmers to be able to maintain their fodder flow throughout the year, there are few basic things that need to be done now in summer. The first thing is that farmers should know their rangeland condition determines how much livestock they can keep and for how long. If they ignore this basic rule, it is obvious that they will pay the price sometime later in the year. Thus, in summer, give your rangeland enough time to restore by taking out animals, especially after the drought. Further, during the restoration process, farmers tend to turn a blind eye on moving water in their farms, not knowing that it is a crucial stolen resource that is even causing more rangeland degradation through soil erosion. Thus, make sure to slow down, split and sink running water in your farm; do not let it pass through to your neighbour.
Further, it is important to start fodder banks or reserve in summer while there are abundant fodder materials in the road corridors, municipal land and even on your farm.
Cut down this grass, store it and it will save your budget on fodder in the dry season, or else wait until you buy grass that other Agripreneurs baled from the same corridors you had an opportunity to harvest your own.
Many farmers can attest on how bush feed/bos-kos saved them in the last drought of 2019; therefore, instead of waiting until branches are dry and nutrients are depleted, chop down branches while they are green and nutritious, mill and store as fodder in your reserves for later use in winter.
At the end of the rainy season, which is around April in many parts of Namibia, it is important to do one more last assessment of your rangeland, evaluate how much grazing materials you have and how many livestock it can keep throughout the dry season. Then, with this information, you should adjust your livestock figures according to the rangeland capability.
During this time, livestock prices are relatively good, and you do not have much pressure to sell; therefore, it is not advisable to wait, as at some point, you will be forced to sell when your rangeland becomes depleted, your livestock condition is poor and commodity prices are low. Lastly, while what is discussed above relates to seasonal short-term coping strategies, farmers are encouraged to embark on a transition to become resilient against climate change. This can be achieved by embracing diversified/integrated agricultural ventures, practising Agroecology, Climate Smart Agriculture, as well as de-bushing over encroached rangelands to remove invader bushes and open up veld for more perennial grass to grow back.
*Venomukona Tjiseua is Agribank’s business consultant
2020-03-03 07:43:51 | 30 days ago