AGRA and farmers tackle drought

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WINDHOEK – Rangeland management is the first step for livestock farming in all farming setups in Namibia. Agra ProVision hosted two training courses on “managing rangeland utilisation in years with below average rainfall” in Windhoek recently. Most training participants farm on commercial farmland, while others farm on open grazing areas in communal farm land.

Gunther Roeber, Agra ProVision’s Technical Advisor for Training Course Development said the training focussed on cattle: trying to take emotions out of keeping the animals and rather emphasise on its ultimate purpose. “The main purpose of livestock farming is to successfully convert forage/grass into meat and milk thereby generating the income for wealth creation among our citizens,” Roeber clarified. Part of the activities of the sessions was to take the participants through the exercise of evaluating different scenarios and demonstrate what the farmers can and need to anticipate during production cycles, and especially so when rainfall is below average.

Reflecting on the course activities, Roeber said: “We discussed the rangeland cycle by distinguishing between the active growth period during the rainy season and the dormant period stretching from May until the onset of the next rains as late as January in the following year. What is critical in this regard is that the amount of forage available at the end of the rainy season in April must last throughout the year until grass starts growing again.”

Agra ProVision provides simple and easily implementable actions for farmers to undertake, to ensure that their cattle survive a drought season; taking one step at a time. Participants learned to appreciate that a change in perception of the real value of their cattle is required and that implementing new marketing strategies would alleviate the plight of farmers in drought periods.

Participants especially valued the timing of the training; one of the participants, Yolanda Kavetuna, said that she could already look at rangeland and cattle from a different angle, when visiting farms over the weekend between the training sessions. “I started thinking about approaches and strategies we took for granted. I then realised that rangelands need to be maintained to support our livestock,” she stated. Participants also mentioned that professional advice is required in future, especially with regards to reliable determination of forage availability.

The first round of training was held from 17 to 26 March with six evening sessions and an additional practical afternoon session, with another session from 7 – 10 April. After these two sessions, the 29 participants who completed the training course received certificates. The next training will take place after Agra ProVision has consulted with farmers as to what the most important topics are. These sessions will be organised in the different regions so that as many farmers as possible can benefit from the expertise of Agra ProVision.