Plan to reverse land degradation gathers momentum

21 Oct 2015 16:20pm
WINDHOEK, 21 OCT (NAMPA) – A N.dollars 94 million programme to find a new way to reverse land degradation and adapt to climate change variability, while ensuring food security, is being discussed in Windhoek this week.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry developed and launched a report on the five-year Comprehensive Conservation Agriculture (CA) Programme for Namibia (2015 – 2019) earlier this year.
It forms the basis of the three-day national conservation agriculture stakeholders’ workshop that started here on Wednesday.
The workshop is taking place under the theme: ‘Unlocking the potential of conservation agriculture for inclusive and equitable development’.
Speaking at the opening of the workshop, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Abraham Nehemia said the agricultural industry has seen floods, droughts and prolonged dry spells caused by changing climate conditions
“Low production levels throughout crop-growing regions are partly as a result of erratic rainfall, increased soil and land degradation and poor farming practices. The ministry has therefore developed and launched this programme which is a framework for the coordinated implementation of CA by all stakeholders in Namibia,” Nehemia noted.
The biggest part of the programme’s budget will be spent on subsidised CA equipment (N.dollars 13 million).
The second-highest amount (N.dollars 12 million) will go towards the upgrading of accommodation facilities at the ministry’s training centres at Tsumis and Mashare, while N.dollars 9 million will go towards the facilitation of detailed soil surveys on irrigated farms.
A total of N.dollars 8.5 million will be spent on upgrading soil advisory services and advising farmers, while N.dollars 7.5 million is budgeted for the increase of the capacity of the ministry to develop and test CA equipment.
The programme objectives state that the implementation of CA amongst farmers (small-scale) should be seen as part of an ongoing process. Most of the activities will be continual and will form part of the routine work of MAWF and other stakeholders.
It is expected that uptake of CA by farmers will be slow in the beginning, but will accelerate towards the end of the five-year proposal. The programme targets all crop producers in Namibia, encouraging them to adopt CA practices. CA is not new in Namibia and has already been undertaken in various parts. Small holder farmers in the Zambezi Region experimented with direct planting, crop rotation, and manure application; while a few commercial farmers in the maize triangle (Grootfontein-Tsumeb-Otavi) are trying various CA operations such as controlled mechanised traffic, narrow row spacing, and no-till direct mechanised planting.
Green schemes have also experimented with isolated CA practices such as direct seeding, crop residue preservation and crop rotation, according to the programme report.
Meanwhile, challenges faced by the programme include specific varieties of maize and mahangu needed for CA, as well as seeds for legumes and other rotational crops, as well as cover crops.
“The production of locally bred good quality seeds needs to be driven by the MAWF through parastatals or commercial farms. The seed market may be too small for the private sector,” the programme report cautioned.