Photo Credit: USAID Resilient Waters

Conservation Agriculture a Saving Grace for the Kavango Region

USAID Resilient Waters Program Supports Institutional Strengthening of Farmers
By USAID Resilient Waters

In a community where livelihood activities are characterized by agricultural farming, water remains a critical natural resource. It is important for the survival of people, plants, animals and the maintenance of the ecosystem. Rural and poor communities forming part of the Namibian catchment areas of the Okavango River Basin depend on rain-fed farming to survive and thrive. Changes in climate resulting in poor rainfall have affected hundreds of farmers and community members across the catchment, increasing food insecurity. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Resilient Waters Program is building resilience and facilitating climate-change adaptation in the Kavango Region by increasing agricultural productivity, improving water access and use, and strengthening local institutions.

Resilient Waters, through its grantee Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF), is spearheading a climate adaptation initiative by equipping farmers with innovative climate-smart skills to reduce the impacts of climate change – ensuring they minimize the likelihood of suffering future climate shocks that have the potential to cause severe water shortages, livestock losses, reduced crop production and yields. This work fulfills Resilient Waters’ program objective three to “strengthen the ability of communities and key institutions to adapt to impacts of climate change” and continues to impact the many people who make a living from fishing, tending cattle and cultivating sorghum, millet and maize.  

Between December 2019 and January 2020, Resilient Waters delivered training on Conservation Agriculture (CA) to 552 farmers, working through 12 Farmers’ Clubs who already have an existing institutional setup that is responsible for the management of livelihood activities across various sites. CA is a modern sustainable agriculture production technique that promotes minimum soil disturbance, protecting the soil from erosion and degradation, maintain a permanent soil cover, and preserve natural resources. The training was based on a manual “Conservation Agriculture - A Short Guide”, which was developed by NNF with support from Resilient Waters. 

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One of the lead farmers from the Shamangorwa Farmers’ Club explaining CA techniques to other farmers.
One of the lead farmers from the Shamangorwa Farmers’ Club explaining CA techniques to other farmers.

The structure of the training also involved the selection of a total of 105 Lead Farmers with representation from the 12 Farmers’ Clubs who underwent training on their responsibilities. Under the leadership of the NNF Coordinator, Lead Farmers act as a focal point on the ground to provide a support structure and coaching to individual farmers. Their role also includes keeping records and tracking of project activities and beneficiaries, producing lists of individual farmers, field sizes, date of planting and methods of CA adopted in their own fields. Another layer of the institutional support is provided during field visits with the technical staff from NNF: Lead Farmers are taught how to monitor individual farmers’ fields and to provide field support and advice.  

Allen Jiji, Project Coordinator at NNF, works closely with the Lead Farmers and explains how the work continues to improve how the Farmers’ Clubs manage their sites. Allen notes that bringing farmers together in common place to learn and share ideas helps develop a sense of togetherness amongst them as they share the same challenges caused by climate change. Each Farmers’ Club group has a committee and a Lead Farmer who provides support to other individual farmers. The extension system set up helps in providing support from the NNF technical focal person down to the farmers with information being passed through the levels of communication (from the NNF coordinator, to Farmers’ Clubs committee, Lead Farmers and then individual farmers). This has fostered ownership and accountability within the groups as Lead Farmers and committee effectively bring people together to discuss issues faced by farmers in agriculture activities especially CA. Trainings on institutional support are provided to help farmers improve on governance related issues through platforms as the Clubs and committees.

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Mayana Farmers’ Club members taking part in one of the training sessions
Mayana Farmers’ Club members taking part in one of the training sessions.

The CA training was split into two parts which covered a theory part and practical exercises where the farmers were coached in land preparation, both ripping and hand hoe methods. Other areas of the training included integrated pest management, manure application and seed planting, which were rolled out in separate sessions.  

Pauline Kahana is part of the Mayana Farmers’ Club area that is a beneficiary of the Resilient Waters Project. She has adopted CA in her own fields and is one of the few farmers who practises CA using the tractor ripping method. Pauline shares, “Conservation Agriculture is a good method of farming and I have managed to harvest 1250kgs of mahangu (pearl millet) during the 2019/2020 season compared to the previous years where I would only harvest less than 500kgs. With this harvest, I can feed myself and my family till December and sell some bags (4 or 5 bags) to supplement my income. People have seen my harvest, and some have seen the benefits of CA and are now practicing CA because of my results.”  

Another beneficiary is Shamangorwa Lead Farmer, Maria Gorrety Mangundu, who practices CA using the hoe method. She has undergone training delivered by the Program and the benefits of CA have also been observed in her fields. This include a better yield as she has harvested more compared to the traditional method. “With CA, using the intercropping method I have managed to harvest 100kgs of cowpea from the 20mx20m plot. The result is not the best had I increased the land, but I have seen that adopting CA in my own fields is beneficial and I will increase on the land prepared in the next 2020/2021 season,” she says. Even when rain is poor, she can harvest something as water is retained in the soil through mulching and the soils improve with time.  

Additionally, through the NNF grant, Resilient Waters is supporting capacity building initiative in the Kavango Region, providing management skills to Farmers’ Clubs to improve governance as well as financial management. This is important for the leadership of the various Farmers’ Clubs to improve information sharing, data collection and strengthening the support to individual farmers.

Country
Namibia
Projects
Resilient Waters
Strategic Objective
Adaptation
Topics
Agriculture, Climate-Resilient Agriculture, Biodiversity Conservation, Climate
Region
Africa

USAID Resilient Waters

USAID Resilient Waters is a five-year, $32 million project implemented by Chemonics International. Its goal is to build more resilient and water secure Southern African communities and ecosystems through improved management of trans-boundary natural resources and increased access to safe drinking water and sanitation services.

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