Conservation Agriculture: Learning and Adapting Together

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Namibia has been experiencing variability in rainfall over the past three agricultural seasons due to the climate change effects experienced the world over. As a result, innovative mechanisms to help small-scale crop farmers deal with climate change and to improve their resilience are needed. The practice of Conservation Agriculture (CA) is one such mechanism. 
CA is a set of soil management practices that are increasing globally as the best method that farmers can adapt to curb the impact of climate change. The CA practice stands on three pillars: permanent soil cover, minimal soil disturbance and diversification of plant association.
The Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF) since 2014, has been working with farmers at ground-level in the Kavango regions under the European Union (EU) Climate Smart Agriculture Project with the partners Development Aid from People to People (DAPP) Namibia and U-landshjälp från Folk till Folk i Finland rf (UFF), supported by the EU and Pupkewitz Foundation. 
Subsequently, in 2016 the NNF implemented the Sustainable Communities Partnership (SCP) CA Project in the Zambezi region with support from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Namibia, through the Morby Family Charitable Foundation.
In line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals - SDG 13 Climate Action, the NNF aims to build resilience, facilitate climate change adaptation, market access and offer nutritional services to farmers. Over the years, through own field adoption of CA, most farmers have managed to record improved yields and diversify on crops, and this has also helped boost nutrition and raise income.

CA Projects Exchange Visit to Zambia 
From the 18 to 20 March, a total of 30 CA farmers together with farm instructors, had an exchange visit to the World Wide Fund (WWF) CA Project in Zambia, in the Sesheke District. The WWF CA Zambia Project and its sister project in Namibia are both supported by the Morby Family Charitable Foundation as part of the Sustainable Communities Partnership. Through this link, the projects have developed a good working relationship. 
Zambia is one of the CA pioneers in southern Africa, with over 3000 CA farmers in the Sesheke District alone. In light of this, the exchange visit created a platform for the two CA Namibian projects to learn from Zambia; exchange ideas and have experience-based learning on CA as well as other climate change mitigation related efforts. 
The farmers visited three CA fields and had a chance to explore and discuss issues that ranged from Seed Varieties and Seed Multiplication, GAPs (Good Agricultural Practices) as well as engaged on Food Diversification to boost and improve their income streams. 
Other techniques highlighted were the Integrated Pest Management (scouting, crop rotation, and inter-cropping methods, to help reduce the build-up of pests) and Post-harvest Losses. Farmers were very optimistic on the different storage options and acknowledged that from the time of harvesting and even up to the time of storage, they are affected by post-harvest losses due to lack of facilities and knowledge on harvest management, and this results into loss of income or even food for the house. Pauline Kahana is one of the CA farmers in Kavango West who performed exceptionally well for the 2017/2018 season. However, this season, due to less rainfall received, Kahana will not be able to harvest as much as she did last year. 
Commenting on the exchange visit she said: “The exchange visit has helped me understand and acknowledge that my fellow farmers and I are not the only ones struggling this season due to poor rainfall, but that drought is an international threat to us all, hearing from my fellow brothers and sisters in the Zambezi region and Zambia. What I love about CA and the Climate Project, is that it is not only about the harvest, but also the support and knowledge that we get throughout the project, such as this exchange visit.” 
CA this year was affected by a long dry spell that was experienced in January and February. This resulted in crop failure as a result of crop wilt due to heat stress. However, due to the proactiveness of some farmers and having taken advantage of the early rains that fell during the last week of December, these farmers will be able to harvest. 
Farmers are heavily dependent on rain for their crop production, so poor rains negatively affect farmers’ household income and leave them food insecure. 
Consequently, this becomes heavy on their pockets as most are subsistence farmers, explained Allen Jiji, NNF EU Climate Smart Agriculture Project Coordinator. “The projects remain hopeful and look forward to taking into practice and implementing some of the ideas that were shared during the exchange visit,” Jiji said. 

The Namibian