Namibia: N$30 billion to restore rangelands | Land Portal

By: New Era Staff Reporter
Date: February 8th 2016
Source: New Era

Windhoek - Namibia is to spend a staggering N$30 billion in real terms over the next 20 years in a drastic effort to restore its rangelands and alleviate bush encroachment.

Making the announcement last Wednesday at the Namibian National Farmers Union (NNFU) Leadership Seminar on Rangeland Management in Otjiwarongo, the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa stressed that only drastic intervention can turn the situation around, “and the need for mitigating action is critical”.

Restoring rangelands, with the resultant abundance of perennial grasses, is furthermore an important way to mitigate the impacts of drought, he noted.

“The lives and livelihoods of many people throughout Namibia are threatened by land degradation. Rangeland is a sustainable natural resource that sustains the majority of our farming communities. But rangelands are deteriorating in all parts of Namibia. This leads to the loss of our perennial grasses, bush encroachment and a less productive, poorer quality, riskier and more disease and drought-prone livestock industry. This affects food security as well as food sovereignty. Restoring our rangelands to their production potential is a vital part of ensuring Namibia’s long-term success,” he observed.

Namibia already receives the most erratic rainfall in sub-Saharan Africa. Due to the effects of climate change, it is expected that rainfall will become more variable in future, while carbon dioxide levels further enhance the growth of bush versus perennial grass.

The Namibia Rangeland Management Policy and Strategy (NRMPS) was developed as a public-private partnership (PPP) to guide the restoration of Namibia’s rangelands on a national basis and was approved by Cabinet during 2012 as official government policy, implemented under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF).

The implementation of the NRMPS is steered by a Rangeland Advisory Committee (RAC), which consists of the NNFU, Namibian Emerging and Communal Farmers Union and the Namibian Agricultural Union, as well as high-level representatives of the MAWF and rangeland experts who provide technical support and guidance.

The overall goal of the programme is to empower rangeland managers and users to use their rangeland resources in such a way that animal production and profit per hectare are optimised, while improving rangeland productivity.

The seminar over the next few days is to start rolling out this empowerment process. The MAWF will be building capacity with farmer leaders, as well as the MAWF’s own staff in these principles whereafter the rollout of adoption and feedback from producers will commence.

“The whole value chain in the northern communal areas (NCAs) requires attention as we find ways to sustainably produce livestock, increase efficiency and improve the marketing of livestock in order to align livestock numbers with rangeland productivity.

Rangelands can only be restored if the number of livestock is adapted annually to the volume of grass available. Rangeland management systems in the communal areas are challenging, but we need to engage in a process of identifying and addressing impediments to improved rangeland management. We need to move away from a system of continuous grazing to a grazing management strategy, which provides sufficient time for the rangeland to rest and recover. We need to give grass what it needs to flourish – because without a healthy grass cover, the conversion of sun to grass, and of meat to wealth or money, cannot be achieved,” Mutorwa emphasised.

Other challenges to address to restore Namibia’s rangelands include the improvement of water catchment to reduce erosion and water runoff, and the establishment of adapted perennial grasses as planted pastures. These can be implemented with great success in all farming areas, including non-title deed areas, as well as on resettlement farms, game farms and title deed livestock farms.

Bush encroachment and the loss of perennial grasses and topsoil are other national problems – and alleviation of the issues will act as a game changer in the Namibian agricultural sector.

Namibia will see an increase of some N$2 billion per annum in meat production at farm gate, with further value adding opportunities such as a significant improvement in the recharge and thus availability of underground water, to the benefit of towns and villages reliant on underground water; the potential to create permanent employment opportunities while restoration is taking place, and which can be sustained in the long term; improved quality of life; less urban drift and improved social and political stability. Mutorwa says a significant contribution will also be made to achieve the objectives of Vision 2030, i.e. poverty eradication, improved food security, addressing of inequality, as well as job creation.

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Photo source: Shaun Astbury via Flickr/Creative Commons (CC By-NC-ND 2.0). Photo: © Shaun Astbury

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