Sustainable rangeland management is key for farming

Rangeland degradation has compromised farm productivity as farmers tend to spend more money on livestock feeding.

12 May 2021 | Agriculture

STAFF REPORTER

WINDHOEK

To ensure sustainable livestock production, farmers need to embark on sustainable rangeland rehabilitation and utilisation efforts or regenerative farming practices.

These include conservative grazing regimes, controlling bush encroachment, controlling soil erosion and rebuilding soil organic matter, rangeland re-vegetation and water conservation.

Agribank’s technical advisor for livestock and rangeland, Erastus Ngaruka, says rangeland is defined as an area of land with natural forage materials that are utilised by livestock and wild animals and its productivity depends on rainfall and utilisation.

“The most important attributes to consider about rangeland productivity in grazing areas are grass vigour, density, species composition and abundance or richness.”

He says these attributes indicate how strong and active the grass growth is after dormancy and grazing, the amount of grass yield per unit area, the different grass species, and their dominance.

These are indicators of grazing values in the different rangelands, and are influenced by climatic conditions and utilisation, varying in spatial and temporal scales, says Ngaruka.

He further explains that the rangeland is the main and cheapest source of food for livestock.

“Moreover, humans derive very useful resources from it.”

These include medicinal plants, edible plant products, household materials such as timber, poles, droppers and thatching grass.

Under pressure

However, there is competition for rangeland resources and space between animals and humans.

“This has put many rangelands under pressure to the extent that their productive potential is compromised, thus, degrading them.

“In Namibia, rangeland degradation is conspicuous at different scales in different landscapes, and takes the form of deforestation, desertification, soil erosion, and bush encroachment.”

Ngaruka further says that livestock production in many parts of Namibia has become expensive due to degraded rangeland.

According to him rangeland degradation has compromised farm productivity and income as farmers tend to spend a significant amount of their earnings and efforts on rangeland rehabilitation and livestock feeding. This in turn depletes their financial resources.

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