Potential of Agroforestry for Namibian farmers in Climate Change Regime
As a young forester with a keen interest and qualified in agroforestry, I keep my vision for Namibian farmers and their perspective future in climate change scenario.
The agricultural sector in Namibia is highly vulnerable to higher temperature with more frequency of droughts associated with projected climate changes. The larger proportion of the country’s population depends on subsistence farming, which extremely depends on rainfall. The country receives an average rainfall of 350 mm per annum. The most devastating and visible impact is manifested on the agricultural sector because of aridity and lack of surface water. Moreover, most Namibian soils are arenosols containing few nutrients and poor water retention capacity. Thus, plant growth is constrained not only due to shortages of phosphorus but result of deficiency of nitrogen and other valuable trace elements.
Crops yield has been affected by the unpredictable rainfall for the past few decades in rural areas (specifically in my region - Omusati). Staple food crop Pennisetum glaucum (omahangu) which can tolerate various soils and moisture is also marginally losing its productivity. Our reserved forest resources are now over exploited as result of high demand of forest wood/timber products. Reduction in crop production as a result of low rainfall and increasing demand for forest wood/timber products in Omusati region of Namibia envisaged the requirement for an alternative to our traditional farming systems and models for climate change adaptation.
Therefore, to prepare for the effects of climate change, it is of utmost importance that agriculture in Namibia takes appropriate adaptation measures. Adoption of sustainable agriculture is vital to food security, especially for subsistence farmers. Having a broader spectrum on how arid regions of India been adapting to climate change, I realised that the current system practiced in Omusati, and Namibia as a whole, largely based on monoculture, is deemed to be more vulnerable. I had the privilege of interacting with Indian farmers who have adopted the systematic agroforestry models and the experience was educative and worth emulating. In the changing scenario of the climate, farmers should adopt mixed cropping and climate resilient farming. We have to develop and popularise what is currently known as climate smart agriculture. Agroforestry means practice of agriculture and forestry on the same piece of land. The system maximises production as a result of greater efficiency of perennial crops for photosynthesis, tapping nutrients and water from deeper layer, and creating better environmental conditions. Further, it also supplements food and fodder, meet diverse needs of the people, improve soil conditions, utilise wastelands and degraded lands, provide employment opportunities to rural population, increase farm income, minimise adverse effect of climatic factors, aid industrial growth and improve environment for better health. Tree components through their deep roots explore a large soil volume of water and nutrients which help to maintain production during drought seasons.
Agroforestry is recognised as a carbon sequestration strategy because of its applicability in agricultural lands, as well as in reforestation programmes. The system offers the highest potential for carbon sequestration, with carbon sequestration rates ranging from 1.5 to 3.5 Mg C ha−1 yr−1. Agroforestry model has also some indirect effects on C sequestration since it helps to reduce pressure on natural forests. Moreover, it has such a high potential, not because it is the land use practice with the highest carbon density, but because there is such a large area that is susceptible for the land use change. An approach that makes it possible for farmers to produce most of the nitrogen that crops need is through fertiliser trees in the field – manufacturing nitrogen and cycling P and K with no cash investment.
* Paulina Pomwene Fendinat is a graduate from CCS-Haryana Agricultural University (India) with a MSc in Forestry. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Era Reporter
2018-11-20 10:11:57 28 days ago