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  • GREEN EDITION

    10AGRICULTURE

    Namibia is a country dependent on natural re-sources for its economic growth and the key sec-tor of agriculture remains an extremely important part of the Namibian economy, even beyond what its contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) alone would suggest. Climate change greatly impacts agricultural productivity particularly in a largely arid country like Namibia. In recent years, the impacts of climate change have been experi-enced in different parts of the country in the form of reduced yield and more frequent extreme weather events among others. These impacts are felt especially by small-scale farmers as agriculture plays a critical role in the formal and informal economy supporting 70% of the population directly or indirectly through employment and income generation. Crop production activities in Namibia are limited, mainly due to the arid climate and low rainfall patterns. Small-scale farmers use traditional methods of production that are characterised by low productivity. This weakens the food security of the population; the dependence on rain-fed agriculture increases the vulnerability of farming systems and predisposes rural households to food insecurity and poverty.

    However, there are practical examples of community action to address these compounded challenges through adopting agricultural practices that are resilient to the impacts of climate change. One example of a community-led initiative is the Olushan-dja Horticultural Producers Association (OHPA), an association of private farmers in the Onesi constituency in the Omusati region in northern Namibia. The Association was founded by the small-holder farmers who own land surrounding the Olushandja Dam who farm on plots ranging between 3 and 20 hectares and used to employ hundreds of workers. The association consisted of approximately 69 registered members to start out with, compris-ing individual projects and three community projects (namely; Benedict’s Sisters of Oshikuku, Ela Disability Project and Elderly People Project). However, according to OHPA chairperson Paulus Amutenya, in recent times the number of farmers was reduced by thirty because of challenges to access local markets with their products and thus their farming businesses closed.

    by Lesley-Anne van Wyk • photos Hans Seidel Foundation

    THE WAY TO GO: Climate-smart agricultureFOR COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT THROUGH CLIMATE-SMART AGRICULTURE MORE SUPPORT IS NEEDED FROM NAMIBIAN RETAILERS AND CONSUMERS FOR LOCALLY-GROWN PRODUCE.

    Harvesting tomatoes: A variety of crops are grown at OHPA

    including tomatoes known as ‘the farmer’s diamonds’.

  • www.sisternamibia.org SISTER NAMIBIA

    11

    Drip irrigation in action: drip irrigation is a sustainable agricultural measure which conserves water and dis-courages weed growth.

    Being a part of the Association results in lowered import costs, improved sharing of information and farming techniques, employ-ment creation especially among youth and also long-term revenue for smallholder farmers allowing for more resilience in the face of climate change-induced shocks and hazards.

    The smallholders at OHPA farm with a variety of crops, includ-ing tomatoes, watermelons, cowpeas, butternuts, cabbage, spinach, beetroots, green peppers, onions and maize. The coop-erative of farmers have adopted conservation agriculture practices to adapt to the impacts of climate change (such as more frequent and intense drought) by conserving water and soil while maximis-ing crop yields. Farmers also practise crop rotation given their wide range of crops. This helps improve the soil and also restore soil nutrients by mixing with legumes (such as cowpeas) that fix nitrogen in the soil. Some crops like sorghum also improve the soil structure and onions help with pest control.

    Soil conservation requires minimum tillage (i.e. ploughing and digging). Farmers using climate-smart farming methods normally grow their crops on ridges to improve weed control, soil tempera-ture and moisture as well as to minimise soil erosion.

    Sowing of crops starts in the shade house/greenhouse in seedling trays, to improve germination. These seedlings are then transplanted in the soil when they are ready. Different varieties are sown separately while recording their type, planting date and the expected date of harvest.

    CLIMATE-SMART PRACTICES USEFUL IN SMALLHOLDER AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION

    Crop Management

    Livestock management

    Solid and waste management

    Agro Forestry

    • Intercrop-ping with legumes

    • Crop rotations

    • New crop varieties (e.g. drought resistant)

    • Improved storage and processing techniques

    • Greater crop diversity

    • Improved feeding strategies

    • Rotational grazing

    • Fodder crops

    • Grassland restoration and conser-vation

    • Manure treatment

    • Improved livestock health

    • Animal husbandry improve-ments

    • Conserva-tion agricul-ture (e.g. minimum tillage)

    • Contour planting

    • Terraces and bunds

    • Planting pits

    • Water stor-age (e.g. water pans)

    • Dams, pits, ridges

    • Improved irrigation (e.g. drip)

    • Boundary trees and hedgerows

    • Nitrogen-fixing trees on farms

    • Multi- purpose trees

    • Improved fallow with fertiliser shrubs

    • Woodlots• Fruit

    orchards

    Source: Neufeldt, H. et al. 2011

    The Olushandja Dam is the main source of water for the farmers. They pump water from the dam into their farms for irrigation. The farmers have adopted the drip irrigation method which conserves more water compared to flood and/or sprinkler irrigation. Pipes are laid on ridges and this system allows water to drip slowly at the roots of the crops which also discourages weed growth around the crops. The drip irrigation systems used give optimal amounts of water per crop as well as improve water

    distribution and pressure in the drip irrigation systems.Fertiliser applications depend on the stage of the crops’

    growth because crops require different nutrients at different stages (e.g. germination, flowering and fruiting). Such fertilizers include in order of application: Ammonium phosphate for roots development, nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) for growth, ammonium for leaves and Urea for growth. Manure, especially goat manure, is used for its high urea content and is only applied after it has been left to rot and as such to kill nematodes (often parasitic worms that feed on crops). On the other hand, crop residues (plant remains after harvesting e.g. maize stalk) are also used to improve soil structure and for mulching (which is to act as a cover for the bare ground around crops with crop residues). These fertilisers are applied mainly by burying them on the ridges, close to the plant roots. Pests are controlled through a chemical process of spraying with pesticides and weeds are controlled manually by uprooting them by hand.

    When it comes to selling their produce, the farmers of the OHPA mainly produce for the Namibian market and household consumption. Their customers were mainly catering companies, schools, clinics and prisons. However because of a lack of sup-port from local catering companies and retailers who reportedly

    purchase produce from South Africa and commercial farms in southern Namibia, the farmers have lost market access despite producing the same quality of produce as their competitors. With the establishment of the Namibian Agro-Marketing and Trad-ing Agency (AMTA), the OHPA farmers have better access to markets as they have more selling power as a cooperative and therefore their products can be sold directly to AMTA which then sells and distributes the produce nationwide.

    The farmers also provide their products to business people at informal markets in northern Namibian towns. This reduces food losses in the supply chain by supplying consumers clos-est to the farm.

    The OHPA is an example of the benefits of privatisation, cooperation and innovation in small-scale sustainable agri-culture in Namibia. Furthermore, producing quality products requires skills and knowledge in the horticultural field and the OHPA is a powerful example of how to achieve food security and community empowerment in Namibia while using climate resilient methods. The support of Namibian retailers and other companies is vital to ensure that these efforts take deep root through successfully accessing local markets with locally pro-duced produce.