Thursday, June 12, 2008

Namibia must rethink the role of agriculture, says expert

AllAfrica, via New Era (Windhoek): Namibia should reconsider its emphasis on agricultural production as a means of economic development, if climate change has to be taken into consideration. "Climate change is considered as something threatening the regenerating capacity of natural resources - then we should think of how to accommodate the 70 percent Namibians employed by agriculture," a local climatologist Dr Pierre Smit said.

Smit said water availability and accessibility is a major limitation to sustainable development in Namibia and depends on favourable weather for replenishment, both underground and impounded. The Namibian environment is a crucial backbone of the national economy because the country is highly dependent on natural resources, in particular for economic activities related to the use of agriculture, wildlife and marine resources.

Greater aridity may increase grazing stress, deteriorate vegetation, produce losses in food production, increase pressure on water resources and reduce arable land. Conversely, wet periods may result in diseases such as malaria, increased floods and damage to infrastructure, while changes in land use patterns and soil erosion affect larger parts of the country. The climatologist thus noted that climate change can adversely affect terrestrial ecosystems, on which the livelihoods of about 70% of Namibians depend. But even without the threat of climate change, Namibia faces absolute water scarcity by 2020…

…Given this scenario, Smit said it is advisable to look at other options such as hunting and tourism, especially for subsistence farmers who are likely to be more affected by climate change and variations. The tourism sector has been identified in recent times as a very lucrative industry that can make a positive economic impact on people's livelihoods in the country. The communtity-based tourism sector has been specifically identified as bringing changes in poor rural communities' lives.

Kalahari Desert in Namibia, photo by Elmar Thiel, Wikimedia Commons, under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 Germany License

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