Teaching Africans how to tend cattle
The booklet, funded by the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) Namibia is based on a pilot programme implemented under the rangeland management programme in mid-2010. It is a revival of old animal husbandry methods which came about after realising that benefits from livestock in communal areas, are on the decline. Similarly, unchecked grazing lead to degradation of the environment, most notably deforestation and bush encroachment due to overgrazing.
Throughout the 1990’s, the northern communal areas experienced significant economic growth through the development and official recognition of communal conservancies that helped rural people harness benefits from wildlife and tourism. However, in most rural areas, grazing for livestock and game was deteriorating and the national domestic livestock herd was declining, with numbers south of the veterinary cordon fence now believed to be half of what they were in the 1950’s.
In response, research and teaching institutions and national programmes such as the Southern African Rangeland Development Programme (SARDEP), as well as individual farmers, experimented with rangeland and livestock management approaches to help improve the productivity of grasslands and consequently the productivity of the livestock sector. Most of the approacheswere based on reducing animal numbers to prevent or reduce overgrazing.
The pilot programme, which started in 2010 involved 21 pilot areas across the Kunene, Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto, Ohangwena and Kavango regions were the livestock owners and herders were instructed in age-old sustainable grazing management systems. They were also taught organizational skills to collectively manage the rangeland and herds in a sustainable manner.
According to training coordinator, Wiebke Volkmann, experts and field facilitators shared with the livestock owners the advantages of combining livestock of different owners around one water point into one large herd which is herded according to a grazing plan to fresh grazing every day by trained herders.
According to the 2011 estimates by the Directorate of Veterinary Services, there are about 1.6 million cattle in the northern communal areas and 1.2 million in the areas south of the Veterinary Cordon Fence, a total of 2.8 million cattle in the country. Minister of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development, Hon. John Mutorwa, who launched the booklet, stressed the importance the livestock sector plays in sustaining the livelihood for a significant number of households in the country. It is estimated that 76% of the overall agricultural output is contributed through cattle and small stock of which only 6% comes from the communal areas.This, Mutorwa said was brought on due to the low take-off rates in the NCA.
“We need to scientifically prove that there is no Foot and Mouth Disease in these areas in order to achieve the Fourth National Development Plan’s desired outcome of an average real agricultural growth of 4% per annum by March 2017,”said Mutorwa, adding that this could only be achieved by removing the barriers to livestock trade in the NCA’s thereby increasing their take-off rate.
By February, twenty five grazing areas in the various rangeland pilot areas across the six northern regions that are supported by GOPA-CBRLM, have been practicing planned grazing and herding, with the number expected to doubled by the end of 2013.