All eyes on Namibia as host of the 19th Rangeland Forum

Windhoek: The eyes of the world will turn to Namibia on September 15-17 when she will host the 19th annual Namibian Rangeland Forum.

This year’s prestigious event will be held at the Out of Africa Lodge, Otjiwarongo with local and international speakers tackling one of the most sensitive topics, for Namibia that is experiencing another year of drought, while prospects for good rains in 2016 remain doubtful according to some forecasts.

The forum will focus on adapting to climate unpredictability and climate change, along the whole value-chain, while the country remains in the grip of consecutive droughts.

At last year’s forum a N$11.6 million grant from the European Union (EU) was announced to kick-start the implementation of the country’s first National Rangeland Management Policy and Strategy (NRMPS), that could change the face of rangeland management in arid Namibia forever.

The government in 2012 approved the multi-million dollar project and the multi-faceted programme will be implemented over a period of four years. It will consist of a Rangeland Advisory Committee and a Rangeland Coordinating Unit, with the Namibian Rangeland and Bush Encroachment Forum as the overarching body.

A UN delegation will be present again and feedback will be given about six projects, which are being financed by the EU. These include the establishment of a coordinating unit under the grant made by the EU to the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) for the implementation of the National Rangeland Policy and Strategy.

Most of the projects relate to the improvement of rangeland, adapting to the effects of climate change and combating de-forestation.

The programme officer of the EU delegation, Laura Imbuwa, is excited about the overall goal of the project. She says the programme will enhance the speedy implementation of the NRMPS amongst all natural rangeland users in Namibia, improve rangeland condition and resilience, and reduce the vulnerability of rural resource users to the impact of climate change, drought and desertification.

Mecki Schneider, chairperson of the Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO), says the specific objective of the action is to effectively and efficiently coordinate the implementation of the NRMPS at national and regional levels. He stresses the importance of government carrying on with the project after the initial four years to enable Namibian farmers to practice good rangeland management, as the country strives to improve productivity per hectare and limit bush encroachment and soil erosion. “These challenges are further increased by climate change,” he notes.

Another project is the Rangeland and Marketing Development Support Project in which Meatco Foundation is the lead applicant and Co-operative Agriculture Namibia the co-applicant. The six regional areas are Kunene North, Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena, Oshikoto and Kavango East and West and the project duration will be thirty months.

The project hopes to improve the active involvement of key regional players in all seven regions to climate adaption activities through implementation of regionally appropriate responses, improved uptake and application of best practice rangeland management policies, improved herd production, improved marketing options and more receptive sellers in at least 30 grazing areas.

Other issues to be addressed include increased awareness of cropping best practices, the development of synergies with croplands and livestock, as well as local level land use planning, grass poaching, fire control and other key issues that affect livestock and rangelands.

Both initiatives hope to train and expose key stakeholders through regional meetings to agree on locally appropriate key messages and material for rangeland, livestock, marketing, cropping and local land use planning.

This year’s event will see renowned local and international speakers addressing issues, such as the implementation of the national rangeland policy and strategy, EU-funded regional co-operatives in seven Northern Communal Areas, the full chain of production, and the EU-funded project for climate change adaptation by San in two Conservancies

Local expert and independent consultant Dr Axel Rothauge will address combatting desertification in the arid northwestern Namibia and presentations will be delivered on early warning systems for rangeland production, as well as the application of drone technology to rangeland management.

Predictions of different climate change models for Namibia will be discussed and Hugh Pringle will address the audience on how rangeland producers can better manage climatic variability and change.

Mecki Schnieder will speak about livestock producers’ perspective on adapting to climate unpredictability and Jerome Boys will present the results of rangeland research conducted since 2004 at Sandveld Research Station.

Various speakers will then address topics, such as their experiences of coping with drought, management of rangelands for hay-harvesting, a case study from Otjimanangombe on communal areas, interpretation of observations and potential for natural sequence farming, as well as case studies of various farms in the communal areas.