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Kavango farmers devastated by outcome of maize, mahanu

New Era
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RUNDU – Mahangu and maize fields in the Kavango West region are a sore sight for the eye. The majority of the subsistence farming crop fields along the Rundu – Nkurenkuru road sport underdeveloped and wilted maize and mahangu plants, while some are totally barren. Farmers are devastated by the outcome as the fields that at first had good germination later totally dried up causing plants to wilt to the point that no grain was developed at all due to the severe drought impacts. The majority of those farmers applied conventional land preparation methods such as disc-harrowing and moldboard plowing.

Farmers in Halili village in Kapako constituency are not likely to harvest much, if anything at all. “From my one hectare field along the main road, I usually harvest 20 to 30 large bags of maize cobs each season, but this year all the plants wilted even before flowering. I will not harvest anything,” says a somber Lucia Neromba. Her field looks like many others along the 120 km distance between the two towns; stunted and wilted maize plants in a dusty field scorched by the sun. “I rely on my crop farming for the main food security for my family and usually I don’t have to buy maize. Now, I have no food to put on the table. It is devastating.” Neromba has heard of alternative climate-smart farming methods that are more suited to the current climate conditions. “Farming is my main means of survival and to be able to provide for my family. I will definitely seek information and try to gain knowledge for the next crop season.”

Further down the road there are even fields without any germination at all. “The seed in my disc harrowed field did not germinate due to very inefficient and unpredictable rainfall,” says farmer Joseph Mukwoto, standing in his barren disc-harrowed crop field in Nankudu village, Tondoro constituency. “We put a lot of work into the field, but the result is zero. It is demoralizing and worrying.”

Martha Namwira, from the same area, reports a less gloomy situation. “I put one hectare under the rip furrow Conservation Agriculture (CA) method which produced results despite of the drought. My maize and mahangu survived. At least I will harvest something. I will definitely continue using CA methods.”

A short distance away, Reino Nairenge is also pleased with the results in the part of his farm that is under CA, a method he trialed for the first time this crop season. Namwira and Nairenge both advise farmers to start trialing CA due to the increasingly unpredictable rains and poor soil conditions. They are recommending for rip furrow land preparation to be done very early, even before the onset of the cropping season, so that farmers are ready to plant immediately with the first rains. “If we can benefit from the absolutely first rains, our crops stand a very good chance, even during drought.” They also emphasize the importance of CA training programmes in the communities. “Farmers need access to trainings and education in general agriculture, and specifically in climate-smart farming methods in order to become productive and to survive from the land in the future.”

Namwira and Nairenge are both participating as Lead Farmers in the Namibia Conservation Agriculture Project (NCAP), financed by USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and implemented by NCAB CLUSA International across northern Namibia together with local partners CES and NNFU. As Lead Farmers, they share CA information and knowledge with other farmers in their surrounding communities, as well as offering practical demonstrations and trainings in their CA demonstration plots. NCAP promotes rip furrowing by tractor and draught power animals, as well as the hand-hoe CA basin method.

Kongalend Financial Services provides Small-agribusiness loans especially for farmers and entrepreneurs interested in becoming rip furrow service providers. There are currently two private sector rip furrow service providers operating in Kavango West. For more information and contact details for the service providers, please contact CES NCAP Coordinator Basilius Shikukutu on 081-3766115.