The implementation of the country’s agro-ecological zones (AEZs), the carrying capacity maps and their framework database with a reliable and dynamic GIS model has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Minister of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform Calle Schlettwein has said.
Schlettwein was speaking at the opening validation workshop for the production of the agro-zones and carrying maps, at NIPAM on Thursday.
The ministry is also tasked with the development of integrated regional land use plans (IRLUPs) countrywide that aims at creating an enabling environment for sustainable development and optimal utilisation of land resources to meet the demand and needs of the country’s inhabitants.
The AEZs will thus serve as an indispensable input to the development of the IRLUPs.
Schlettwein said the ministry in its new composition is well aligned to manage most of the basic resources to optimally create economic opportunities from land uses.
In fact, he said, when Cabinet directed to develop the agro-ecological zones and carrying capacity maps for Namibia and their framework database with a reliable and dynamic GIS model, the directive went to both the then Ministry of Land Reform and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry.
“To implement this directive, the ministry recruited agri-ecological services consultants on 19 March 2018 to carry out this project over a period of 18 months,” he said.
However, he said due to the drought that has plagued the entire country and now the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, the project could not be completed on time as planned.
Agro-ecological zoning defines zones on the basis of combinations of soil, landform and climatic characteristics.
Each zone has a combination of constraints and potentials for land use, and serves as a focus for the targeting of recommendations designed to improve the existing land-use situation.
The purpose of zoning therefore is to separate areas with similar sets of potentials and constraints.
It is a tool with which land use options can be optimised. Livestock farming is one of the more important agricultural land uses sustaining the livelihood of the majority of farmers in the agricultural sector and hence the inclusion of a carrying capacity map.
A carrying capacity map is a tool that can be used to estimate the number of livestock that a given area of land can carry over a given period of time, normally 12 months.
Schlettwein said the outcome of the project for the development of agro-ecological zone and carrying capacity maps will enable government, policymakers, decision-makers and farmers to provide appropriate, area-specific, agricultural extension information and advice, among others.
“This will also help government in the formulation of legislation or guidelines to regulate and minimise environmental damage as well as in applying a well-informed land tax regime,” the former finance minister said. “This will also help government to determine with certainty the viability of economic farming units to better incorporate land use options in socio-economic planning,” he added.
He said that before the workshop, consultants and staff of his ministry carried out a reconnaissance field trip from 24 to 28 September 2018 to appreciate the situation on the ground.
“The consultants then embarked on data identification, collection, evaluation and validation, conversion, classification and refining of the methodology,” he said.
He said an inception workshop was held on 4 July 2019 at which results from the field were presented to stakeholders.