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Conservation agriculture still struggling after thirteen years

2019-07-30  Staff Report 2

Conservation agriculture still struggling after thirteen years
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Deon Schlechter

WINDHOEK - Thirteen years after Namibia committed itself fully to an attempt to recognise the need to rapidly accelerate access to, affordability of, and incentives to use fertilisers alongside conservation agriculture (CA) to stimulate sustainable pro-poor productivity growth in Namibia, CA has not reaped the expected benefits.

This, despite government launching a N$96 million Comprehensive Conservation Agriculture Programme (CCAP) in March 2015 that is to run until the end of 2019. The German International Development Cooperation (GIZ), and the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust) are partners in the programme.

The project has been hampered by consecutive drought years and a cash-strapped government forking out millions for drought-aid food. CA was dealt another blow when the internationally funded Namibian Conservation Agricultural Project (NCAP) came to an end in 2016. 

Namibia signed the agreement with the Africa Union / New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU/Nepad) in Abuja, Nigeria in June 2006. 

Namibia started this process some eleven years ago but some of the government subsidies were either halted or privatised due to lack of funds. 

Recently, a new CA programme was announced for Zambezi Region through which the CCAP aims to increase awareness and knowledge of CA among stakeholders, including farmers, extension workers, researchers and policy and decision-makers. 

The programme also aims to increase farmers and extension workers’ skills of practising CA, conduct farmer-focused research and to develop appropriate CA technologies and packages for the farming systems. 

It furthermore aims to establish institutional arrangements for harmonised and coordinated implementation of the CA programme; ensure farmers have sustained access to CA equipment, inputs, markets and services, and develop standards and monitor and evaluate the adoption and impact of the programme.
The programme is meant to target all crop producers in Namibia, encouraging them to adopt CA practices, depending on the resources available.  

The programme in addition aims at providing government assistance in the form of subsidy to communal crop and livestock producers concentrated in Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Kavango East, Kavango West, Zambezi, Otjozondjupa, Kunene, Omaheke, Hardap, Erongo and //Kharas regions.

The programme further aims at providing assistance to commercially rain-fed farmers where applicable, including resettlement farmers, affirmative action farmers and irrigation farmers in the maize triangle and elsewhere and farmers as categorised in horticultural programmes. 

Farmers from the government green scheme irrigation projects (commercial irrigation schemes with some rain-fed cropping, large scale service providers and associated medium-scale emerging farmers), farming along the perennial rivers in the extreme northwest, northeast and south of the country and near the country’s dams elsewhere are also included.

This year, CA was again under pressure as the rains stayed away and more than half of Namibia’s 2,3 million residents living in the northern communal areas (NCAs) rely on their crops, provided by some 12 000 communal farmers.

CA crop farmers use ripper or direct seeding methods instead of ploughing to minimise soil disturbances. This method has been successfully promoted in neighbouring countries and has been piloted in Namibia for about eleven years with Baufi’s Agricultural Supplies manufacturing anything from rippers to hand-drawn ploughs.

Responding to questions from Farmers Forum regarding the achievements of CCAP since its inception last March, the senior public relations officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Margaret Kalo, said to complement existing national initiatives in achieving national food security, the ministry formulated the CCAP via a stakeholder consultation process.

“Whilst the ministry developed the CCAP recognising the development opportunity provided by climate-smart CA and complementary good agriculture practices (GAPs) as a suitable approach in our farming systems, it is imperative to note that adoption constraints at all levels must be overcome to mainstream CA in a targeted manner involving all stakeholders who have a role in ensuring its success,” she notes.

“With notable stakeholder interest and backing, moreover their agreement with CCAP implementation modalities, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry is confident that the overall targeted interventions will be achieved by 2020,” she assured.

Kalo pointed out that the N$96 million announced at the launch of the project is not funds that are available but merely the required budgetary resources for the implementation of CCAP over its five years. The figure does also not account for interventions, products and services provided by the government under other ongoing and planned programmes. However, it is commendable that the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and stakeholders have to date secured substantial resources that enabled the collective and satisfactory implementation of CCAP interventions.

2019-07-30  Staff Report 2

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