The agriculture ministry has completed testing for new cowpea varieties, and is in the process of naming them. This was revealed in the ministry’s technical paper released last week, which provides detailed information in addition to the ministry’s budgetary motivation.
According to the paper, the distinct uniformity and stability (DUS) test for five new cowpea varieties was completed, and DUS certificates were issued.
The DUS test is meant for checking whether the released varieties are different from the existing varieties in at least one morphological characteristic at the vegetative, flowering and pre-harvesting stage of crop development.
“The ministry is in the process of naming the newly developed cowpea varieties with the involvement of all stakeholders, particularly farmers who participated in the development process of these varieties. The newly developed varieties will be listed in the SADC variety catalogue as they have already met the SADC requirements,” the ministry said.
The newly developed cowpea varieties will be gazetted and released as Namibian
varieties as soon as local names are finalised.
Nine seed growers belonging to the Northern Namibia Farmers Seed Growers Cooperative (NNSGC) were supplied with 22kg of foundation seed of new cowpea mutant varieties free of charge for multiplication of certified seed, the ministry said.
Since many of Namibia’s farmers struggle with poor soil fertility, which requires them to use expensive nitrogen fertilisers, experts used a stable isotope of nitrogen to evaluate cowpea varieties for their nitrogen-fixing ability.
Cowpea is known to add nitrogen to the soil, reducing the need for industrial nitrogen fertilisers, and therefore boosting soil fertility and providing a more sustainable crop yield.
By initiating crop rotations with cowpea, sorghum yields have increased by approximately 30%, and farmers make estimated savings of at least 30% of fertiliser costs.
The ministry also produced a total of 158 tons of seeds at its various research stations.
This, according to the ministry’s technical paper, comprises 79 tons of quality seed, and 17 foundation seed and certified seed (62).
The ministry also announced that it has scored success in animal disease surveillance efforts, which are a major activity of the Directorate of Veterinary Services.
“Routine active and passive surveillance activities such as farm inspections, community visits, ante- and post-mortem inspections at abattoirs, supervision and livestock inspections at livestock auctions, export inspection and certification, and the inspection of imported animals and animal products were carried out during the year with relatively favourable results as no major events were observed,” the ministry said.
Disease surveillance is done in order to provide evidence of the country’s animal health status, which is constantly under threat from animal diseases that have the potential to disrupt Namibia’s access to local, regional and international markets.
Animal disease surveillance programmes ensure that diseases or conditions that may precipitate disease outbreaks are mitigated, and that systems are in place for early detection and early effective responses.
The ministry recorded huge numbers of animals slaughtered under veterinary supervision, where 36 529 cattle and 14 872 sheep were slaughtered.
A total of 736 951 cattle were vaccinated against FMD in the infected zone and a bigger part of the protection zone, while 771 290 cattle were vaccinated in the Northern Communal Areas (NCA) against Lungsickness (CBPP).
The Namibian Livestock Identification and Traceability System (NamLITS), which enables the government to keep accurate records of animal disease surveillance, animal movements and vaccinations, recorded great strides.
This programme allows for the monitoring of breeding programmes as well as population dynamics and the development of future projections. In the 2020/21 financial year, 59 007 additional cattle were tagged in the NCA.
Also, a total of 83 398 pets (dogs and cats) were vaccinated against rabies in the NCA in 2020/2021. The project has seen a major improvement in pets’ rabies vaccination coverage, and a decline in rabies cases.
The ministry’s budget is divided into two votes: vote 37 for agriculture and land reform, and vote 38 for water.
The total budget for the 2021/2022 financial year is N$ 1.7 billion.
Of this total, N$1.2 billion is allocated to vote 37, while N$465 million is allocated to vote 38.