Staff Reporter Windhoek-With the threat of another devastating drought this year, the question has been arising whether too much responsibility in the utilisation of natural resources has been devolved to private entities. When a drought strikes, farmers are encouraged to destock rapidly and drastically. Technically correct, but if the drought has struck widely and many farmers destock at the same time, animal and meat prices fall precipitously. Dr Axel Rothauge, a leading Namibian expert on drought and desertification, says lacking a national drought reserve and fodder bank, desperate farmers will simply over-utilise drought-stricken rangeland and degrade it; contrary to the aims of various policies and strategies. “Where are the forage-based feeding facilities that can temporarily absorb destocked livestock and delay marketing to stabilise prices and farmer incomes? After the drought, farmers have to rebuild their herds,” he laments. Drought-stricken farmers need the income the most, as they get the least for their livestock. At the same time, the price of drought fodder escalates astronomically - when farmers need it most but can least afford it. “What are we doing at a national level to encourage farmers in those parts of Namibia most suited to produce extra fodder to ease the fodder shortage?” he wants to know. Rothauge says north-eastern Namibia could produce enough animal feed to support the drought-prone central and southern areas of Namibia with extra grazing, hay and silage, to the benefit of the “grass farmers” in the north-east and the drought-stricken farmers elsewhere who depend on very expensive, imported hay. The prices of replacement breeding stock will be sky-high due to the huge, simultaneous demand at a time that farmers have little savings to fall back on, having just emerged from a debilitating drought. This is an opportunity for herd-restocking incentives to ease animal import restrictions, avail superior animal genetics and breeding technologies like artificial insemination and group breeding schemes and encourage rather than prohibit the trading of replacement livestock across veterinary cordon fences such that it does not compromise the nation’s livestock health. “Vision 2030 implicitly acknowledges this, by promoting a modern, knowledge-based and technologically advanced economy by 2030; nearly the exact opposite of where we are today in the communal farming sector. “So, will the majority of farmers still be locked into a communal set-up 12 years from now? As a society, we could be making more rapid progress towards the goals of Vision 2030 if we fix our eyes more firmly on where we want to be in 12 years’ time rather than on where we have come from over the past 130 years,” says Rothauge.
New Era Reporter
2018-01-30 09:50:17 11 months ago