There has of late been consistent calls from experts for farmers to diversify their means or form of farming if they are to get the best out of their farming enterprises.
The calls for diversification hinges on the need to have multiple income streams as farmers, due to the volatility of certain farming modes to climate change and so on.
While this is a noble call to action, there are surely exceptions to this. For instance; is it always a given that when one diversifies your farming operations that you will make good returns?
And is the opposite – that you will make minimal returns or complete losses if you fail to diversify – also true? It’s a double-edged sword that one needs to hold firmly lest it turns on you.
Granted, having different sources of income is always a plus. If one form of farming is hit economically, then one could rely on the other form of farming to make ends meet. Therefore, if I am primarily a livestock farmer, it would make perfect sense to venture into small scale poultry production too. This will surely cover up when the drought hits the livestock sector.
So, if I have always been farming with small livestock and have been profitable in this regard, perhaps it makes better economic sense to further my exploits onto large stock farming, right? Well, not exactly! Like many things out there, this too is no foolproof method. Allow me to break this down:
Firstly, the type of farming one takes on is largely determined by a few factors such as environment, climate, and most importantly the market. In Namibia, there are several great examples of how farmers in the different parts of the country have made a good living by intensively farming with only one type of product.
This is so because this specific product appears to thrive in the environment where it is being farmed. Sheep farmers in the south of the country have made a good living by specialising only in sheep farming.
They have paid farms off with returns from largely sheep farming.
The same rings true for large stock farmers in the Otjozondjupa and Omaheke region, who have mostly specialised in cattle farming, as many have equally made a living without adding goats or sheep to the equation.
Areas in the maize triangle of Tsumeb-Grootfontein-Otavi have equally done well to utilise the area for what it is best for; crop (maize) farming.
Some still hold some cattle and a few small stocks but generally, the bulk of the income comes from large-scale crop farming.
The same can be said of mahangu producers north of the red line, many of who hardly keep large numbers of cattle or small stock.
The common denominator in all the above examples is that farmers choose what is more flexible to grow, thrive and survive in their chosen environment.
The south has hardly enough grass for large-scale cattle farming, with few expectations.
The same goes for several areas of the Oshana, Ohangwena and Omusati regions, hence their chosen specialisation.
So, before you jump on the bandwagon of diversification, perhaps you ought to study your area first.
Of cause there is no way you could farm with the Karakul sheep in the Omaheke region for instance due to the large variety of acacia (thorny) species in the area.
That’s why they are limited to the area extreme south with wide-open plans and savanna.
I so move.