September 11, 2008

Farmers challenged on land management

Namibian farmers have been urged to look after their land, in a country with very little arable land for agriculture. A large number of Namibians depend on agriculture despite the aridity of the country. Some experts even recommend that Namibia should forget about large-scale agriculture (in view of global warming) and pay more attention to sectors such as tourism, which is said to be more profitable. Tourism overtook agriculture as the second largest GDP contributor in recent years.
"This country has no future without agriculture, no agriculture without a future, no future without proper rangeland management," counter argued Solomon Tjipura, Chairperson of the Namibia Emerging Farmers Forum at the 12th Namibian Rangeland Forum.
Bush encroachment and desertification are identified as the major challenges facing farmers, especially emerging farmers in the country. Bush encroachment on approximately 26 million hectares of woodland savannas in Namibia is said to have resulted in loss of land productivity by as much as 100 percent or more. Tjipura said in 2004, financial loss due to encroachment was approximately N$700 million per year, which today would be a loss of more than one billion dollars per year. "It is therefore incumbent upon us to find solutions to those man-made problems because we made them. It is our duty and responsibility to find ways to cope and manage those problems that can be attributed to nature," Tjipura told the resettled and emerging farmers at the gathering.
According to Richard Kamukuendjandje from the Polytechnic of Namibia, many of the resettled farmers faced challenges in decision-making as a group on certain issues, as opposed to a farmer who farms alone on his/her farm. Another big problem that Kamukuendjandje singled out was the change from communal to commercial farming. Kamukuendjandje stated that these farmers were at high risk of degrading their land through overgrazing and bush encroachment, if they did not acquire the necessary skills and knowledge. "They also lack finance to maintain and develop their infrastructure, as well as financial skills and skills to monitor the ecological process and make sound decisions," added Kamukuendjandje, who is also a farmer. The meeting was attended by emerging commercial farmers, rangeland scientists and practitioners. (New Era, Windhoek)

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