Micro Agriculture Info Project Underway

A group of experts which include rangeland specialists, economists, agricultural organisations and farmers recently attended a workshop in Windhoek for the development of a monitoring framework for farmers and their organisations.

Agricultural information is not easily available in Namibia. Macro information on prices, production volumes of the various commodities such as large- and small stock, agronomic-, dairy products, and charcoal as well as agricultural debt is compiled by organisations such as the NAU, Meat Board, Agronomic Board, Karakul Board and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry. Information about micro developments in the agricultural industry, however, is hardly available at all, besides some estimates made by various consultants and financial institutions.

In 1999 the Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO) started promoting study groups amongst producers in Namibia. Producers agree that study groups are a very important way to improve the profitability and long term sustainability of commercial farming. The LPO together with all study groups in Namibia as well as the local extension officials developed a computer model, called AgriSTAT. This model was used to collect production and financial information from individual producers with different production systems. Furthermore, it is the aim to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of farming must improve in order to realise increased production and profits.

The new programme will be used to analyse production and financial information and to compare this on individual as well as national level. Information will be shared annually with participants by way of information days. Information can also be used for applications for loans at banks but also to verify the real production potential in regionsareas – land tax.

The ultimate aim is to be able to provide:

-Production values such as production affectivity, re-production percentages, carrying capacity, herd compilation and stocking

-Gross margin analysis and profitability of the various production systems, for example weaner production, cowox production, ox production

?Gross incomeha, gross incomekg produced

?Gross expenditure:.

?Net profit

?Gross expenditure as % of gross income

?Labour-, petrol-, feedlick-, medicine costs, repairs and interest, etc

-Construe results

?Proportion analysis proportions such as solvency, liquidity, profitability, effectiveness relation

-comparing of historic results

-comparing on national level – NAU The objective of the framework will be to collect basic information with regard to rangeland, production, finances, labour, marketing and risks. This information can then be used by farmers as well as assisting organisations in the agricultural sector with the evaluation as well as planning of their farming activities.

Explaining the ambitious baseline survey of animal nutrition in the NCAs, Agra consultant, Dr Axel Rothauge, says the survey consist of three components, being the condition and nutritive value of rangelands, the nutrient status of livestock and lick pilot trial and training farmers and information dissemination.

Dr Rothauge explains the methodology of the study by saying the survey is being zone based on agro-ecological zones in the NCAs and the questions that need to be answered are: what is the nutritive value of the forage, what is the current condition of communal rangeland what is the potential of the rangeland and how can this potential best be exploited?

As an example, he used the results from a study done between degraded and less degraded sites in the Amaupa area and the salt pan area, south-east of Amaupa. Results showed that the Amaupa area had a soil cover of 97% and the salt pan 98%, both have excellent cover but with different compositions. Also, the Amaupa area receives rainfall, while the salt pan area depends on efundja irrigation. It was noted that Amaupa has been subjected to severe grazing pressure over the past 40 years.

In the Amaupa area only 3.4% perennial grass was present while in the salt pan it was 88.7%. Ideally, 90% perennial grass should be present. Only 10% of annual grass should be present, but in Amaupa it was 96.6%, and in the salt pan 11.3%. Zero percentage of climax grass was present in Amaupa, and 16% in the salt pan whereas the ideal coverage should be between 30% and 50%. Only 1.5% sub-climax grass was present in Amaupa, compared to 74.4% in the salt pan. The ideal should be between 45 and 65%. In the Amaupa area, 98.5% pioneer grass was present, and in the salt pan it was measured at 11.6%. The ideal presence should be 5%.

Too many woody plants , 31.2%, and 39% were present in the Amaupa and salt pan areas and it should not be higher than 25%. Mopane, as the main invasive species measured 59.4% in Amaupa and 68.8% in the salt pan area. The total yield of wood in the Amaupa area was 34 tonnes per hectare and in the salt pan area it was 1.7 tonnes ph. The nutritive value of forage plants was acquired from 656 “imitated” grass and browse samples of 157 preferred and principle forage species and 143 “random” grass samples of six composite groups.

Dr Hassel concludes that the Communal Based Rangeland and Livestock Management Programme of the MCA-N improves rangeland conditions where there is too little grass and too little good grass due to selective overgrazing. Poor nutritive value of fodder is due to poor species composition. He emphasises the importance of bush as a valuable, multi-purpose resource and predicted that after the drought, rangeland conditions will stabilise at a next lower level.

“Unless some recommendations are actually implemented, livestock productivity will drop and the NCA farmers will become poorer,” he warns.

Source : New Era