Adapting agriculture to climate change
Title: Adaptation of agriculture to climate change in Northern Namibia
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF)
Overall term: 2015 to 2019
Namibia is the driest sub-Saharan nation and is among the countries most severely affected by climate change. This is threatening food security, particularly in Namibia's densely populated northern region, where more than half of the country's population of 2.1 million live. The main activity in this region is subsistence agriculture, which is primarily rainfed. Older people are often left to carry out the agricultural work, as younger people are moving to urban areas.
Crop production and livestock farming are only possible to a limited extent. This is primarily due to infertile soil and unreliable rainfall patterns. Where possible, farmers apply shifting cultivation practices and periodically clear new areas. Since organic and mineral fertilisers are rarely used, soil fertility rapidly diminishes here too. A few small-scale farmers irrigate their fields, but the potential for irrigated agriculture is limited and it is a very cost-intensive method.
Due to climate change, additional productivity losses are expected in the region. Crop production in particular is already being affected by climate change. Temperatures are rising, rainfall variability is increasing, and droughts and floods are becoming more frequent. It is likely that by 2050, current methods of rainfed agriculture will be viable only in Kavango East and Zambezi.
Despite the reduction in yield already seen in association with climate change, very few small-scale farmers have begun applying climate-adapted cultivation methods yet.
Small-scale farmers in Northern Namibia successfully apply farming practices that are adapted to the impacts of climate change.
Conservation agriculture is a promising method for adapting farming to climate change. This is the main focus of the project. Conservation agriculture is based on three principles: soil is not ploughed, crop rotation is practised using a variety of crops, and the soil is always covered with vegetation or plant residues. As a result, soil fertility can be increased and water losses reduced. In June 2015, Namibia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) formulated a comprehensive programme for the widespread introduction of conservation agriculture.
The project supports implementation of this programme in the Kavango West, Kavango East and Zambezi regions. It is training farmers in climate-adapted cultivation practices, improving delivery of agricultural services, promoting research and knowledge management and developing capacity at MAWF.
The project will be able to draw on experience already gained over a period of several years in various pilot projects. In some cases, this method has led to considerable increases in crop yields. The project aims to continue developing these approaches and encourage their widespread use by building the capacity of private and public service providers. In the research sector, the project is cooperating with two local universities (Namibia University of Science and Technology, University of Namibia) and with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).
All the state agricultural extension providers in the target regions and some 200 farmers have received training on conservation agriculture so far. The majority of them have created demonstration plots and are instructing other farmers. In addition, an increasing number of service providers are offering rippers, which greatly facilitate soil cultivation. As a result, farmers are increasingly switching to conservation agriculture. The yields during the first crop season were, on average, 70 per cent higher on the demonstration plots than on the plots on which traditional cultivation methods were used.