Climate-smart agricultural practices such as Conservation Agriculture (CA) are tripling yields for subsistence farmers in the drought-prone semi-arid southern African nation of Namibia where farmers are utilizing smart strategies to boost food security.
Sylvanus Naunyango, a farmer from a small village called Omakoya in Namibia’s northern Omusati region, has been utilizing smart farming since 2008, a move which he says has changed his life and tripled his yields.
“I started using conservation agriculture when I realized it had potential. I was lucky because I studied agriculture and through studies and exposure, I had come across literature on this practice, so I was willing to explore the potential,” Naunyango said.
CA, as practiced in Namibia, has three fundamental principles which include minimum disturbance of the soil, soil cover, and crop rotation which allow farmers to grow crops without depleting their soil and achieve high yields even in areas with poor rainfall.
Namibia is actively encouraging farmers to adopt CA and good agricultural practices that are in tune with the country’s environment. The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform has over the years conducted workshops to teach Naunyango and farmers alike how to successfully practice CA in combination with good agricultural practices.
Namibia is one of the driest countries in the world with scientists predicting global warming will make Namibia even hotter and drier while the effects of climate change could prolong dry spells.
More than half of Namibia’s population live in rural areas and depend on rain-fed crop farming, but in much of the country especially northern areas, rainfall is too low and land is too degraded presenting a threat to food security.
This has been made worse by the reality that droughts and floods take place simultaneously in the country over the years due to the effects of climate change.
So far, more than 3, 000 farmers have been assisted through a tailor-made program that aims to raise awareness of CA as well as provide information and offer training.
“After implementing the method on a small scale, I found there was potential as per literature and as per the training we had received. I started with horticulture because we have less water in our area which we have to use sparingly so that at least we can maximize what we have,” Naunyango said.
Now the trained farmer is enjoying the fruits of his labor where he is producing about 5 tonnes of mahangu (indigenous millet) from one hectare of land compared to about 1.2 tonnes previously when using traditional farming.
Some of the trained farmers are doing so well that they are now working with the government to train other interested farmers in their different communities.
Paulina Aluuma, a farmer in the Oshana region, said that after four years of practicing CA, she has acquired extensive experience and increased her yields so that she is now leading as an example in her community where people consult her on how to utilize the practice.
“There is really a need to accelerate the adoption of CA to most farmers because of the drought we have been experiencing,” she said.
The practice has helped increase yield for individual households, especially those living in drought-prone areas where food production was very low.
The country has developed the Comprehensive Conservation Agriculture Program which aims to increase awareness and knowledge of CA among stakeholders, including farmers, extension workers, researchers, and policymakers. Enditem