THE Development Aid from People to People (DAPP) and the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF) in 2015 implemented the Conservation Agriculture (CA) component under the 'Farmers Clubs with Climate-smart Agriculture for Improved Resilience and Livelihoods of Small-scale Farmers in Kavango Project', with the aim of improving the livelihoods of small-scale farmers, as well as assisting them with adapting to climate change.
Namibia is one of the countries that are most vulnerable to impacts of climate change, primarily on rural people, who are highly dependent on the natural environment and its resources for survival.
The negative impacts of climate change (e.g. drought and soil degradation) are greatly felt by communities, causing reduced yields, and plunging them into low food security, poverty and malnutrition. As a result, communities now look for means to adapt and increase their food productivity.
Conservation Agriculture is a set of soil management practices that has proved to be the best method to adapt to climate change, through its permanent soil cover, minimal soil disturbance and diversification of plant association.
What is relatively unknown about CA in Namibia, specifically under this component, is the positive impact this has on farmers, especially women. The project has not only underscored producing better and more yields for farmers, but has also played a pivotal role in improvements of in-field water harvesting and use; institutional strengthening; as well as women empowerment.
The CA project is practised in 20 villages of Kavango East and West, with a farmers' club and a demo field in each village (the demo fields are the focal gathering points where experiences and lessons are shared).
Since the project's inception, 730 farmers have been trained on CA, and in October 2017, 665 farmers graduated from the demo fields, to start CA in their own fields, with women making 85% of the group. In the 2017/18 season, the 665 farmers realised a great harvest of cowpeas, 24 478kg; maize, 9 698kg; mahangu, 22 431kg and; groundnuts, 951kg.
VOICES OF CA FARMERS
Pauline Kahana, a CA graduate, comes from a family of five and is the breadwinner. She was introduced to CA in 2015, at a community meeting held in Mayana, by the NNF.
Kahana started practising CA out of curiosity, as she wanted to compare the CA method with the traditional crop farming method. Since then she has not turned her back on CA.
"Before CA, I used to plant tomatoes, mahangu, and a couple more vegetables, but because of a reduced yield, as a result of e.g. poor rainfall, I decided to try the CA method."
For this season, Kahana only planted mahangu and harvested 1 320kg. Happy with her harvest, and looking forward to the next season (2018/19), she plans to do crop rotation, as well as increase her field from 2ha to 4ha. Kahana plans selling part of her harvest to the Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (Amta) and keep the rest for household consumption.
The Kangweru Farmers Club members said: "For the 2017/18 season, the ripping in the demo field started late since we had to wait for a tractor from the ministry of agriculture's subsidy programme.
"During this waiting period, we started preparing our own fields the traditional way and later started CA in the demo field. In the end, we realised that we actually harvested more with CA compared to the traditional method, even though we started late with CA. When we compared the CA crops with the traditional planted crops, we could clearly see the difference between the two."
The traditional method has densely populated crops with stunted growth due to poor spacing and broadcasting of seed, lack of colour vigour, and small heads for the mahangu. CA crops, on the other hand, looked the opposite, with proper spacing, the mahangu heads are big, and mulching is also done in CA - this helps retain moisture in the ground during the dry periods.
kanweru member Veronika Mantjodi explained that, had they only used the traditional method for the 2017/18 season, they would have had a very small harvest. Farmers remarked that they will continue to practise CA, use the acquired skills and also encourage others to adopt this technique.
*The Conservation Agriculture Project is funded by the European Union through U-landshjälp från Folk till Folk i Finland rf (UFF-Finland), with additional support given to the NNF by the Pupkewitz Foundation.