Friday, February 28, 2014

How Namibia can cope with drought

Axel Rothauge in via the Namibian: Decades of experience in the commercial livestock production sector of Namibia have shown that one of the surest ways to bankrupt a farming business quickly is to feed expensive emergency fodder during a drought. Many Namibian farmers are currently learning this painful lesson, again.

While there is little that can be done about it in retrospect, those farmers that survive this drought financially should start work immediately to cushion the impact of the next drought, which will certainly come within our lifetime, and again at a most inopportune time. The worst thing a farmer can do is to resume farming as usual after this drought and only start worrying about the next drought when it is there. Planning for a drought is best done when it is raining, when there is still time.

A drought is caused by inadequate rainfall or rainfall that is so poorly distributed over a rainy season that too little fodder grows on the veld; less than is needed to feed all the animals on the farm. Essentially, a drought is a period of extreme fodder deficiency. Often, a climatic drought is made worse by the poor condition of the rangeland before the drought. This "man-made" drought on top of a climatic drought has devastating impacts on farming.

During a drought, it's a struggle for survival. Any preparation has to be done before, while it still rains. What can be done? Produce extra fodder to stash some away and build a fodder bank in time. Home-produced fodder is nearly always considerably cheaper than bought-in fodder, which tends to run out just when it's needed most, sending prices sky-high. Surplus fodder can be sold as a cash crop or integrated into the regular feed flow of a farm. The main ways to grow extra fodder is to establish plantations of drought-tolerant fodder plants on a farm...

The Etosha Pan in Namibia, shot by Greg Willis , Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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