Early Warning System for Namibia kick-starts

Windhoek: The aim of the “Rangeland Early Warning and Monitoring System project” is to develop and implement a rangeland early warning system, says Bertus Kruger and Dr Cornelis van der Waal when reporting on the testing and implementation of such a crucial system for drought-stricken Namibia during the 19th Rangeland Forum in Otjiwarongo last week.

The aim is to develop and implement a local-level monitoring system, and to set up a central rangeland database linked to a Geographic Information System. It also aims to supply stakeholders with regular situation reports with regards to rangeland health and developing forage shortages. This information came at exactly the right time as farmers are once again facing severe dry conditions.

The event was attended by various stakeholders, from farmer’s unions to educational institutions and government bodies. For every farmer, commercial, communal and cattle or crop farmer, the project will be essential, as it will be able to provide farmers with innovative methods to weather the harsh conditions which they have been battling with for generations.

The three- year Rangeland Early Warning and Monitoring System project is funded under the European Union “Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation, including Energy” programme. The project objective is to enhance the ability of livestock farmers, support agencies and policy makers to make decisions based on timely and accurate information regarding the state and productivity of their rangelands to reduce vulnerability to droughts, or other adverse climatic conditions.

Bertus Kruger, Agra ProVision’s Technical Advisor for Rangeland Management, reflected on the importance and relevance of the project, saying: “The current veld condition is poor and mainly dominated by annual grasses. Over the long term, there is a need to improve the condition and productivity of the veld, in terms of preventing soil erosion and nutrient depletion, improved water infiltration, and improving veld condition in terms of increasing the proportion of perennial grasses and addressing the negative effects of bush encroachment. Therefore, it is imperative that organisations like Agra ProVision and Agri-Ecological Services work on educating the stakeholders and creating smart methods to assist and help the vital farming community of Namibia.”

To achieve the objectives of this project, Dr Cornelis van der Waal of Agri-Ecological Services and co-implementer of the project said the early warning component of the project will use GIS and satellite imagery (remote sensing) to monitor rangeland trends. The results from this system will then be shared with relevant stakeholders in a timely manner to support forage-related decision making.

The project identified crucial stakeholders who will not only benefit from the project’s outcome, but can help to shape the project to ensure that the outcome meets the needs of potential users. The project intends to improve marketing options, reduce negative environmental impacts, and provide regional assessments of conditions for government and other organisations to use.

The project will compile an archive of satellite imagery data and start to produce products. It has also identified a pilot study area to focus on the forage availability estimates and conducted field surveys for calibration purposes.

Monitoring focuses on livestock condition, fodder availability, rainfall, veld condition and bush density. The email database of more than 2 000 farmers will be used to compile data.