WINDHOEK - Smart farming principles have become the focus for some Namibian farmers as predictions point to a drastically changing farming landscape in the years to come as climate change is expected to seriously impact fodder production in Namibia.
Most of Namibia’s farm rangelands are already degraded and it will not be possible for these damaged rangelands to produce more fodder than they do today, or be restored more easily than we manage today.
It can hardly be expected of the two percent of Namibia’s farmers living south of today’s Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF) and farming in near-desert conditions by 2030 to produce the amount of food then, as they produce today, notes foremost drought and desertification expert, Dr Axel Rothauge.
In a worst-case scenario, the climate of Windhoek in 2030 will be like the climate of Keetmanshoop today, and the climate of Rundu will be like Okahandja’s, he notes.
He says most of southern Namibia’s sheep farmers will have switched to game ranching by then, producing venison, hosting hunters and eco-tourists because farming with wild animals is just about the last enterprise that makes economic sense in very arid conditions.
“However, tourists will not want to see the degraded wastelands that characterise southern Namibia today making the restoration of arid landscapes and beautiful vistas a bigger priority than ever.
“Central Namibia’s cattle farmers will do well if they can still manage to farm with goats and sheep. Many already farm with game today and more will do so in the near future. What they can do sensibly is grow out weaner cattle to slaughter, but where would the weaners come from? Not from the Omaheke and Otjozondjupa regions because the climate will be too dry and variable to sustain cow-and-calf herds,” he observes.
He says to breed cows and raise weaner calves require a constant and reliable supply of roughage feed. The only area that might still have a good fodder flow by 2030 might be the northcentral and north-eastern parts of Namibia, today’s northern communal areas.
“They will still be able to produce weaner calves to sell to farmers south of today’s VCF to grow out to slaughter. All the more reason to get rid of the VCF sooner rather than later.
“Growing weaner cattle out to slaughter can be adapted to variable fodder flow much more easily than cow-and-calf systems. If the fodder flow declines due to drought, a grower/farmer simply buys in fewer weaners than during good times, or sells growing stock at an earlier age (and lesser mass) than usual.
“Today’s weaner calves sold to South African feedlots might be all livestock that central Namibian ranchers will be able to farm with in the near future. At least we will be able to keep and even grow the beef processing value chain (abattoirs and butcheries) in Namibia, providing more jobs and earning more money (foreign exchange).
“Extra fodder will have to be produced off the rangeland, by dry-land cultivated grass pasture and drought-tolerant fodder shrubs. In southern and central Namibia, this will only be possible in small “hot spots” such as moisture-holding shallow depressions with loamy soil, in floodplains and omiramba.
“But in north-eastern Namibia, pastures can be grown just about anywhere, across the whole landscape. If north-eastern farmers are still smallholders by 2030, pastures of perennial grazing grasses will have to be grown in crop fields, in multi-year rotation with grain crops.
“Grass pastures enrich the soil, improve its water-holding capacity and depress weed growth, thus raising crop yields and potentially improving food security at a time of accelerating food insecurity,” he notes.
He says the sooner farmers grow grass pastures, the better. Surplus grass produced in good rainy years in north-eastern Namibia should be hayed, bought by the state and stored for re-distribution to central and southern farmers during drought years.
“Drought-stricken farmers should buy hay from this national fodder bank at cost (rather than profit), thus enabling the state to buy more hay once it rains again and save scarce money for humanitarian assistance.
“A national drought fodder bank of hay will save us the considerable expense of importing hay very costly from South Africa with every drought.
“Farmers’ organisations and lead institutions will have to prepare their constituencies for these eventualities by raising awareness, training farmers to be more climate-smart and developing plausible alternative production methods,” he concludes.
2018-11-27 10:40:01 14 days ago