High harvest despite drought

The Ministry of agriculture, Water and forestry recorded an exceptional bumper harvest of 4660 kg of mahangu- pearl millet per hectare despite the drought experience this year due to lack of sufficient rain.
The high record was witnessed at a smallholder farmer Johannes Keshongo’s farm in Omuntele constituency, Oshikoto Region.
According to a United Nations joint Programme/ FAO baseline study (2009), baseline for the current yield of Namibia’s staple food cultivated by approximately 160.000 subsistence farmers is lower than 300kg per hectare.
The secret behind Keshongo’s good harvest was early land preparation, planting with the first rain, thinning seedlings and applying a mixture of manure and fertiliser.
He further applied conservation Tillage techniques where a ripper and furrower are used to prepare the land. The implement cracks the hard plough pan open allowing for deep root development and forms ridges of 30cm between the ripped planting lines that create an infield water harvesting effect that is guiding rain water to the plants.
“I prepared my land early and planted first week of November 2012 having received a heavy rain. It rained on and off until end of December, but since January I have only received scattered showers. However the soil moisture in the ripped lines is still high,” says Shikongo.
Namibia conservation Agriculture Project Coordinator Richard Shikongo says that once conservation agriculture tillage is used, yields are meant to increase.
“Johannes‘s yields are a great example of what can occur when Conservation Agriculture methods are applied. These are proven methodologies that can result in yields most farmers have never even dreamed of even during drought year.
Shikongo’s yields increased and expanded to 5hectares under ripping and furrowing.
Namibia is recognised as a very arid country and is expected to have droughts interspersed floods, increasing temperatures, land degradation and desertification are increasingly a threat to agricultural productivity; in addition, there is a decline in food and water security as pointed out in the ‘Holistic approach to community based adaptation to climate change’ study delivered in December 2012 in Doha as part of the Momentum for change Lighthouse Activities Awards.
Therefore, ripping and furrowing conservation tillage methods are meant to combat soil degradation, drought and flood effects. It increases yields 500%, conserves soils and cracks open the hard plough pan and creates in field water harvesting
Shikongo adds that ripping and furrowing land preparation can be done during dry season beginning straight after harvest, thus creating optimal planting opportunities for farmers who can then plan with the onset of rain
Conservation tillage is increasingly replacing conventional land preparation methods such as disc harrowing and ploughing all over the world.
It is a method within the wider concept of conservation agriculture that is about practicing minimum soil disturbance, maximum soil cover and crop rotations in order to reverse.