Era of conservation agriculture dawns on NCAs

Windhoek-On the eve of the annual planting season, more than half of Namibia's 2.3 million residents living in the Northern Communal Areas (NCAs), are preparing for a revolution in crop farming empowering small communal farmers in an unprecedented way.

The German International Development Cooperation (GIZ), the Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST) and government's Comprehensive Conservation Agriculture Programme (CCAP) are focusing on conservation agriculture (CA).

The CCAP was developed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) to adapt agriculture to the consequences of climate change. By CA crop farmers use a ripper or direct seeding methods instead of ploughing to minimise soil disturbances.

This method has been successfully promoted in neighbouring countries and has been piloted in Namibia for about ten years with Baufi's Agricultural Supplies manufacturing anything from rippers to hand-drawn ploughs.

On-farm research on CA will be implemented over the next three cropping seasons until 2019. The programme will enable communal farmers to apply successful climate adapted agricultural practices.

Last week the GIZ invited suppliers to deliver agricultural soil fertilisers. CA is based on three principles: soil is not tilled, crop rotation is practised using a variety of crops, and the soil is always covered with vegetation or plant residues. This makes it possible to increase soil fertility and reduce water loss.

The programme focuses on four fields of activity: training farmers in climate-adapted cultivation practices; improving the delivery of agricultural services, documenting lessons learned, and developing the capacity of the MAWF to implement climate change adaptation measures.

A number of multi-year pilot projects on conservation agriculture have already been carried out and the project will be able to build on the experience gained. In some cases, these practices led to considerable increases in crop yields.

CA has been piloted since the early 2000s, but only received momentum in 2009 with the CONTILL project. Since then there have and continues to be many interventions all over northern Namibia but with little overall coordination and no overall review. The GIZ thus commissioned Dr Justine Braby to review conservation agriculture in Namibia.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia