Adaptation of agriculture to climate change

Project description

Title: Adaptation of agriculture to climate change in Northern Namibia
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Namibia
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 2.1 million residents 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, while the younger generation moves to urban areas.

Both crop production and livestock farming are characterised by low levels of productivity. In the case of crop production and the main crops of millet and corn, 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. A number of small-scale farmers irrigate their fields, but the potential for irrigated agriculture is limited; in addition, this is a very capital-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 and rainfall variability are increasing rapidly, and droughts and floods are becoming more and more frequent. By 2050, it is anticipated that it will only be possible to practise rainfed agriculture using current methods in Kavango East and Zambezi.

Despite the crop losses that are already associated with climate change, very few small-scale farmers are applying climate-adapted cultivation methods.

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 agriculture to climate change. This is at the heart of the project’s approach. Conservation agriculture is based on three principles: soil is not tilled, crop rotation is practised using a variety of crops, and the soil is always covered with vegetation or plant residues. This makes it possible to increase soil fertility and reduce water loss. In June 2015, Namibia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) formulated a comprehensive programme for widespread introduction of conservation agriculture.

The project supports the implementation of this programme and focuses on four fields of activity:
  1. Training farmers in climate-adapted cultivation practices
  2. Improving the delivery of agricultural services
  3. Documenting lessons learned
  4. Developing the capacity of Namibia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) to implement climate change adaptation measures.
A number of multi-year pilot projects on conservation agriculture have already been carried out and the project will be able to build on the experience gained. In some cases, these practices led to considerable increases in crop yields. The project aims to continue developing these approaches and to encourage their widespread use by building the capacities of private and public advisory services and service providers.


Alexander Schöning