I farm in the great Kunene region and this year of all years we feel the impacts of climate change the most. The farming business has become very fragile as we depend on Mother Nature for watering our crops and the veld in which our livestock graze. As such, the highly unpredictable rainfall in Namibia negatively impacts our farming activities.
It all started three years ago when we did not get proper rain and we had a drought. We lost animals and whatever animals where left, it did not make sense to sell at that point because it was simply not worth it. I am a livestock farmer through-and-through, I never used to plant. There was no need for camp rotation, I would graze as long as I could in a particular area. I had diesel pumps that cost a lot of money to maintain and also came with problems of noise and air pollution. It was not only me that was going through this, neighbouring farmers where going through the same challenges.
I was fortunate that I had a job to sustain me and my family. The neighbouring famers lived purely o their farming activities. It became so severe that some of them decided to stop farming all together and opted to go look for jobs in the city. I recognised that climate change is real, if I was to survive, I had to rethink and restrategise about how I conduct my farming activities and these needed to become sustainable.
Firstly, I realised if I was going to be a livestock farmer, I had to plant first because if there was no food to eat for the animals, there would be no animals. I had to work with the environment and not against it. I had to become a better steward of the land. Secondly, I needed to invest more into people, I had to make sure that my sta at the farm are well looked after and had a sense of value from their work. Thirdly, I had to have sound financial practices.
Today, my focus is on building resiliency into my farming business. I started planting my own feed for the animals and food for my family and the staff. I now pump water using a solar pump. I got rid of all the diesel pumps as they are very noisy, costly to maintain and there would always be smoke hanging in the air. I use drip irrigation to water individual plants which also means that I have very efficient water use. I also apply conservation farming techniques to minimise run-off and erosion and improve the conditions for plant establishment and growth.
I rely on crop rotations as well as clover, manures and composts to build fertility, in the place of fossil fuel dependent artificial fertilisers. I also compost the manure from my animals so I never run out of fertilisers. All leftovers from the garden go back go into the compost heap or are used as mulch. Nothing goes to waste! I have also recently started planting Ana trees as means to stabilise the soil, provide shade and as a food source for the animals.
I am also looking into automating a large part on the operation, for example, the drip irrigation systems can be set to water automatically at certain times, one can also get soil information via a sensor to put in the soil so that you receive information on what is required in the soil at a particular time. I believe that these processes will give me good returns in the long run, not only for me but generations to come as well.
My long-term plan is to share the knowledge that I have gained and to stimulate the local economy by providing practical training on the farm so farmers can produce enough food for themselves and then sell the excess for profit. I have identified an 83 hectar area at the farm that is suitable for crop production.
Furthermore, I am in an area where there are San communities and I would like to make a difference in their lives by equipping them with skills that can help them produce and secure food for their families. My dream is to build a model area where I can plant various crops suited to the environment that will bring the most yield and educate other farmers or local communities on how to farm sustainably. So the next step in this journey, is to secure the funding to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to formally identify if the environment that I have chosen is feasible for such a project and to map likely e ects of these activities on the environment, human health and welfare as well as the means and measures to mitigate and monitor these impacts.
I believe we have to farm with nature and not against it if we want to be sustainable and I’m commited to share what I have learned along this journey to become a climate change resilient farmer.
About the author: Kenneth Neumbo has been farming ever since he can remember. He grew up on a farm in the communal areas of Khorixas and even in later life, he still goes to the farm every end of the month and holidays. His pain is seeing people going hungry simply because of a lack of knowledge on how to work the land. He is driven to contribute his skills and know-how to help and educate people on sustainable agricultural practices.