With drought a potential threat facing Namibia this year, farmers have been strongly urged to develop robust coping mechanisms to ensure they are able to produce products they can sell, thereby maintaining their income streams.

Hanks Saisai, Agribank’s technical advisor for crops and poultry, stated that most parts of Namibia that were forecast to receive normal to above-normal rains have instead experienced below-average annual rainfall.

He said this has created a sense of panic as a drought year looms over the country once again.

Plan to minimise fallout

Saisai said it is imperative for farmers to always plan for the rainy season.

He added that it is crucial for farmers to collect rainfall records during rainfall seasons.

The records could help farmers identify the distribution of rainfall across the four-month period in which it was received, its intensity, and the dry spells.

With the records at hand, farmers can better plan for prolonged dry spells to minimise the scorching of crops and pasture growing on rangelands, he said.

“Once it has been found that rainfall spells are on average six to eight days per month, a farmer can plan to incorporate an irrigation system to meet the water requirements of the crops or pasture that are grown.”

This, he said, minimises the possibility of crop failure that may result in income losses or the destruction of valuable pasture growing on the rangeland.

Drought tolerance

The second strategy involves paying attention to the varieties or cultivars of crops farmers buy and grow in their crop fields, especially if their production takes place in rain-fed conditions.

“When buying seeds, farmers are urged to always consider varieties with shorter growing periods, and usually, these varieties are indicated as early-maturing varieties,” he explained.

Furthermore, attention must be given to varieties with characteristics of drought tolerance and pest resistance, as these varieties are more likely to attain better yields and harvests, despite sporadic rainfall.

Reliable value

For livestock farmers, Saisai said the focus must be on rangeland reseeding using local seeds from indigenous grasses such as Blue Buffalo, which is a hardy perennial grass with high grazing value.

The seeds can be collected from the end of April in riverbeds in urban areas like Windhoek and along major national roads.

Increasing the seed bank of the soil with good indigenous seeds enables rangelands to utilise the scarce moisture from rainfall to grow valuable grasses that can support livestock during hard times, he said.

Thirdly, Saisai urged farmers to invest in their farming businesses by taking out loans or investing funds into drilling reliable water sources, such as boreholes that use underground water sources.

“Such investments enable farmers that farm with livestock to dedicate at least two hectares for pasture production, where they irrigate the land to grow grass, lucerne and other fodder crops that can be fed to their livestock.”

Store water

As for crop farmers, having access to unlimited water means being able to produce crops all year-round.

This enables farmers to produce crops successfully as their water requirements can be met with ease.

Saisai said the least utilised strategy is rainwater and floodwater harvesting.

“Whenever rainfall is received in abundance, 60% to 70% of the water is lost through surface runoff or either ends up being collected by some catchment water bodies such as shallow plains or streams that flow into major rivers, resulting in flash floods.”

Farmers can harvest rainwater in earth dams or install water tanks to collect rainwater from roof gutters, he said.

Moreover, storing abundant water during hard times can enable farmers to irrigate small portions of land to aid the regrowth of fodder material for their core breeding herds.

He advised that when water is preserved and stored in tanks or reservoirs that are closed off or covered, it minimises water loss through evaporation, enabling farmers to grow their crops easily and produce all year round.

[Source – Republikein]

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