Namibians, Timm and Inéz Miller received the 2012 Namibian Conservation Farmer of the Year award recently in recognition of their conservation-minded livestock farming and for their commitment to living harmoniously with wildlife on farm Aruab.
This honour was proudly presented to the Millers by Conservation CATalyst. Aletris Neils, executive director of Conservation CATalyst and Dave Pepler, ecologist and presenter of the television programme, KykNet GROEN, gave the award at the Jongboer day outside Helmeringhausen.
The Millers farm with Swakara sheep, cattle and goats. They demonstrate every day that wildlife and productive commercial farming can coexist, and that it is possible to manage livestock in ways that diminish losses from predators. The Millers utilise many non-lethal management strategies to reduce conflict with predators, such as kraaling animals at night and during lambing seasons, and by utilising guarding dogs. They also practice holistic farming techniques that minimise impacts to the veld.
"We can't change nature. If we interfere, we usually run into trouble sooner or later. It is far better to try and adapt our farming practices to fit into our natural environment thereby reducing the negative impact our farming methods may have," specified Timm.
Conservation CATalyst is examining the ecology of caracals and other carnivores on farmlands in Namibia. They aim to use this data to develop better management strategies, ultimately benefiting farmers.
"It is vital that we develop mitigation strategies based on science. Each species and each farm is unique; there needs to be an entire toolbox of approaches that can be implemented based on each scenario," explains Neils.
It is critical that farmers understand that each action they take will have amplified consequences in the environment, and such consequences are often not realised until it is too late. Any one component of the ecosystem cannot be removed without impact, as each creature plays an important role.
Timm explained that: "we know very little about the natural cycles that take place on our farms. It would help if farmers and scientists could work together in better understanding nature. Both parties would benefit."
Conservation CATalyst continues to work with the Millers to test and validate novel mitigation methods for managing losses from caracal and jackal. It takes a courageous farmer to be willing to try something new, but the lessons learned from these farmers will be profitable to everyone. "Constant monitoring of our natural environment enables the farmer to make the right decisions when it comes to optimising our business," clarified Timm.
This research is sponsored by the US Fulbright programme and by donations from private individuals and farmers.
"We are incredibly grateful to those farmers who continue to be the most important aspect of this project. Without their time, expertise, and motivation to find solutions this would not be possible," states Neils.
Conservation CATalyst was founded in 2008 and is a not-for-profit scientific and educational organisation dedicated to mitigating conflicts between carnivores and people.