Study reveals vast economic potential within Otjozondjupa

Windhoek-Sixty percent (more than 6.3 million hectares) of the bush-encroached area in Otjozondjupa region could be targeted for bush control, resulting in an overall reduction of 38.5 percent in bush density across the region and reducing the density of dominant encroacher species by 90 percent without touching non-encroacher species.

These life-changing findings, for especially communal farmers, are contained in a special case study for the Otjozondjupa region over 25 years by the Economics of Land Degradation Initiative. The study titled 'Benefits of bush control in Namibia', provides a holistic assessment of economic opportunities for the Otjozondjupa region. Most of Namibia's fourth biggest region, at more than 10.5 million hectares, is affected by bush encroachment.

Acacia mellifera and Terminalia cericea are the dominant encroacher species in this region. The highest recorded density was over 25 000 bushes per hectare in the northeast of the region. It affects multiple ecosystems within Otjozondjupa, including the Highland, Acacia Savannah, Northern Kalahari Savannah, Karstveld, Dry Kalahari Woodlands, and small parts of the Western Highlands. It also affects multiple land uses, particularly commercial and communal agriculture and tourism.

Livestock farming, particularly cattle farming, is a significant land use, employment and income generator in Otjozondjupa. Between 2011 and 2015, Otjozondjupa accounted for an average of 16.9 percent of total cattle in Namibia, according to the Directorate of Veterinary Services. Livestock carrying capacities have been drastically reduced, decreasing farmer incomes and profits. This has also compromised food security and nutrition, particularly in communal areas. A reduction of bush land to an optimal density of 33 percent would at least double the carrying capacity. Thus, it was assumed that following bush thinning of an area, it would take four years to reach the new carrying capacity in that area.

The analysis showed that bush control could result in an additional N$277 million per year. The discounted benefit was estimated at N$1,139.3 million over the 25-year horizon. The Namibia Agricultural Union provided data on the production costs of a cow-ox cattle production system for a typical cattle farm. The discounted cost was estimated at N$933.2 million over the 25-year horizon. The net benefit for additional cattle production was estimated at N$146 million. The increase in wealth represented by some 170 000 additional cattle could be more than N$215.7 million. Greater numbers of cattle will increase greenhouse gas emissions; an additional kilogram live-weight of cattle is estimated to contribute an additional 11.93 kgCO2e per year. This can be valued using the Namibian carbon offset value, resulting in an estimated discounted cost of N$195.5 million (US$15.4 million).

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia