26 March 2019

Namibia: Conservation Agriculture the Way to Go - Hangula

CONVENTIONAL tillage mostly used by communal farmers, is contributing to increased vulnerability to climate change, says the coordinator of a Namibian climate change adaptation project.

Aron Hangula, the coordinator for 'Scaling up Community Resilience to Climate Vulnerability and Change' (SCORE) said there is need for the implementation of conservation agriculture to achieve food security in the country.

Hangula, the coordinator for projects in Ohangwena and Oshikoto region, said this at a one-day Oshana regional environmental education conference for schools held at the Charles Anderson Combined School at Ongwediva last Tuesday. The project assists communal farmers in northern Namibia to implement conservation agriculture, as a response to climate change and declining land productivity.

He said, conservation agriculture is an approach to manage agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity and food security while preserving the environment.

"It is founded on the need to improve soil conservation and reduce soil erosion and associated degradation in cropping systems while at the same time conserving resources and maintaining or enhancing crop yields," said Hangula.

He said conservation agriculture is based on three interlinked principles, which are avoiding or minimising mechanical soil disturbance by planting crops in untilled soil, enhancing and maintaining a permanent cover on the soil surface and the diversification of species by using crop rotation including growing legumes.

For conservation agriculture to succeed, there should be timely planting and effective weed control and the balancing of the number of crops rotated as this will mitigate drought and some crop failures.

Hangula also said conservation agriculture involves using drip irrigation which conserves water.

He conceded that implementing conservation agriculture is a process and communal farmers need to be educated on the process which also requires resources, cooperation and collaboration from all stakeholders.

He said the current drought in the country had negatively affected communal areas, as production has dropped due to lack of rain.

"They are not producing much on conservation agriculture, because there is no rain. Demonstration sites are failing," said Hangula.

SCORE is a five-year climate adaptation project, which started in 2015. It is funded by the Global Environment Facility through the United Nations Development Programme and its implementing agencies are the ministries of environment and of agriculture.

At the same conference, Martin Namutenya - an environmental education teacher at Olupaka Combined School in Ohangwena region and a member of the Cuvelai-Etosha Basin Environmental Working Group, urged schools to establish environment clubs to contribute to environmental education and food production leading to food security.

Namutenya said this will also help pupils to identify environmental problems and get ideas on how to address them.

Esther Hango, the environmental education officer at the Eenhana Youth Centre in Ohangwena region, gave a presentation on what the Ohangwena Youth Environmental Education Club has done so far.

Hango said the club was established in July 2013 and has been collaborating with the ministry of youth, Eenhana Town Council and the ministry of agriculture in its activities, ranging from small-scale gardening, environmental education and recycling.

The conference was organised by the Oshana director of education.

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