De-bushing of 45 million hectares planned

A project to rehabilitate rangeland will increase farm productivity and create jobs and business opportunities in the biomass sector.

16 November 2021 | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK

A project to rehabilitate rangeland in Namibia will contribute to the sustainable de-bushing and rejuvenation of 45 million hectares of rangeland that is currently bush encroached.

It is expected to increase the productivity and carrying capacity of livestock farms, as well as to revive the livestock industry and to improve the contribution of the agriculture sector to the GDP, which has been decreasing over the years.

The project is entitled, ‘Rangeland Improvement through Bush Control and Sustainable Intensification to Mitigate Climate Change and Improve Livelihoods and Food Security in Southern Africa (RIBS)’.

It is being implemented under Phase II of the Southern African Science Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL).

This is according to agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein, who last week gave a motivational speech on the ratification of the Treaty of SASSCAL.

Schlettwein said this project will also enable farmers to turn the estimated 450 million tonnes of invader bush biomass into business and job creation opportunities through value addition.

Jobs

He said that this specifically referred to the production of charcoal, animal fodder, biochar, firewood and wood chips for industrial heat.

He said the charcoal value chain alone employs 8 000 people and generates more than N$500 million per year in export earnings.

“This means that more employment can be created if the business potential and opportunities presented by the 450 million tonnes of biomass are fully exploited.”

Schlettwein further said that the challenges of climate change compounded by the lack of scientific research capacity and funding in SADC prompted Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia, and Germany to take the initiative to establish SASSCAL, with its head office based in Windhoek.

He said the five SADC member countries agreed on a treaty as the legal instrument for the operations of SASSCAL, which has so far been signed by four of the five member states, Namibia included, on 29 September 2018.

The treaty needs to be ratified by member states in order for SASSCAL to acquire full legal personality, and for the said member states to affirm their full commitment and support towards the organisation.

“In addition, the ratification of the treaty will make it possible for SASSCAL to be transformed into an international organisation, which will be registered at the United Nations and accorded all rights and obligations under the international status,” said Schlettwein.

He said the main objectives of SASSCAL are to strengthen regional scientific capacity within the Southern African region in the areas of agriculture, biodiversity, climate change, forestry, water and green hydrogen.

Schlettwein said that overall, the work of SASSCAL is expected to build resilience in the agricultural sector and improve response, mitigation and adaptation to the impact of climate change and variability, as well as to promote sustainable adaptive land management.

Projects

Schlettwein said that the implementation of scientifically informed policies is expected to minimise the high cost that the government currently incurs when implementing emergency response interventions to assist affected farmers and communities whenever climate change induced calamities strike.

Since its inception, SASSCAL has been implementing its research and capacity building programmes through two main research portfolios.

Under Phase I of SASSCAL, a total of 88 research projects were implemented in the SASSCAL member countries, and 18 of these were implemented in Namibia.

The total budget for the 18 projects was about N$32. 096 million. These projects were funded by Germany as a development partner.

Phase II of SASSACAL will focus on research and will be funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) to the tune of approximately N$170 million.

Under this phase, 13 research projects will be implemented in. Namibia will directly coordinate two of the 13 projects. The specific projects to be coordinated by Namibia are on water and food security, and are valued at approximately N$46.5 million.

[email protected]

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