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The basics drought planning

todayJune 4, 2024 14

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By Erastus Ngaruka, Technical Advisor: Livestock & Rangeland Management




The agricultural sector is fundamental to the sustenance of livelihoods in Namibia, however, it faces several challenges associated with climate change.

The effects of climate change are evident as Namibian farmers have endured recurring unfavorable rainfall seasons that present distinct conditions or events such as floods, drought, pest and disease outbreaks amongst others.

Drought conditions in particular are recurrent and emerge every second year or season with varying severity across the country.

These conditions have been devastating to both crop and livestock farmers, and their livelihoods robbing them of optimal productivity and income due to poor yields, poor livestock performance, and unfavorable market prices amongst others.

To this end, farmers need to re-assess their farm business annually or more regularly and develop plans and strategies that will help them withstand the recurrent harsh drought conditions.

There is no standard recipe for managing drought, however, one would need to adjust and adapt to the phenomenon’s changing conditions.

Thus, farm-self assessments should look at the availability of forage (grazing), water, fodder, and financial resources with consideration of rainfall activities to make informed and timely decisions.

As part of farm management planning, drought management should be one of the critical components. Drought planning should be an ongoing process to ensure that responsive measures are implemented at any stage before, during and after drought. It is advisable that decisions or strategies adopted should strive to be economical and sustainable.

This may not be easy given other prevailing conditions such as low livestock prices and high costs of livestock feed. However, farmers should not delay their decisions and actions. Lessons learned show that farmers wait and hope that the rainfall and livestock prices will improve at the detriment of livestock conditions and end up selling at unfavorable prices.

Therefore, a drought preparedness plan will help farmers minimize the impact of drought on their farming businesses, but the effectiveness of a drought plan depends on the time it is implemented.

The preparatory assessment and strategies entail, establishing and responding timely to early warning systems at local, farm and national levels. For example, recording and monitoring local rainfall figures, and establishing trends on rainfall patterns over time, and linking them to rangeland statuses and other environmental conditions.

This will help in making predictions, conclusions, and decisions for the purpose of timely implementation of strategies. Moreover, one needs to assess their finances in relation to the costs associated with drought, for example feeding, relocating (or leasing), and selling of livestock.

The assessment should consider the amount (budget) and the source of funding, either from own savings, farm products sales, grants, subsidies, and loans amongst others. In terms of strategic livestock management, the plan should ensure that animals be segregated or managed as per their different categories and specific requirements.

For example, lactating cows and dry cows do not have the same feeding needs, thus, their management, type of feed and associated costs will differ. Farmers need to take note that feed supplements can be formulated for either production or maintenance purposes. The production supplements target improvement of attributes such as milk yield or fattening, whereas the maintenance supplements aim at meeting the animal’s daily nutritional needs for normal body functions and survival.

A farmer should have a “Farm Fodder Flow Plan” that will consider the source of feeds, these can be fodder produced or sourced from own farm resources, for example, cultivated pastures, crop residues, and harvested forage materials.

One of the best approaches to cut feeding costs on the farm is to produce own fodder or source cheap feedstuffs that one can add value through processing, for example by milling and combining nutritional additives or feed ingredients such as molasses amongst others.

Apart from processed feedstuffs, farmers should also regularly assess the grazing conditions to establish if there is sufficient grazing materials to sustain their animals during difficult times.

This brings in the concept of farm carrying capacity or stocking rate particularly on commercial or fenced-off farmlands where livestock numbers on the farm may have to be timely adjusted to the quantified forage available to avoid overgrazing.

In addition, a sustainable water management plan is also key to minimizing the impact of drought on farmlands.

The plan needs to consider sustainable water (rain and underground) harvesting and utilization through the development of catchment areas or appropriate harvesting techniques, storage, and sustainable use.

Further, planning should also include a drought recovery plan where farm productivity must recover to its previous or optimal potential given the prevailing conditions (rainfall, grazing, water).

These can be at farm and national levels, for example, livestock restocking plans, financial recovery plans, or national agricultural recovery and sustainability plans in general.

In conclusion, planning for drought preparedness can minimize the impact of drought to some extent on the farm business, but the effectiveness of the plan depends on the time it is implemented.

In general, there is a huge cost burden on livestock farmers in Namibia as a result of the degraded rangelands and water scarcity which are exacerbated by climatic events such as drought and high temperatures.

Therefore, emphasis should be placed on integrated rangeland and water management systems to harmonize the use of the two resources.

This requires all relevant stakeholders to play a role in protecting the agriculture sector for the purpose of food security, food self-sufficiency, economic advancement, and sustainable livelihoods.


Written by: Dilia Mazula

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