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Over N$76 billion set aside for land degradation

Tue, 20 October 2015 17:32
by Charmaine Ngatjiheue

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has set aside N$76 billion for the next five years for projects in the land degradation focal area, The Villager has learnt.

GEF is the main funding mechanism operating through the United Nations’ Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

Since 2007, the GEF allocated N$107.9m (US$8m) to Namibia for projects in the land degradation focal areas. It is estimated that N$1.53b is lost to the economy annually due to bush encroachment, mainly on commercial rangelands.

In 2013, Namibia suffered its worst drought in over 30 years. As a result, the country had to dispatch approximately N$880m through the national drought response plan of 2013 to support the estimated 463,518 people affected by the drought.

The Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta said bush encroachment affects an estimated 26-30 million hectares of farmland in most of Namibia’s 14 regions, which makes up an estimated 30% of Namibia’s land area.

“This is due to the declining carrying capacity of the bush-encroached land. Communal area cropland yields are also negatively impacted by land degradation and declining productivity, although these impacts are not easily quantifiable,” he explained.

Shifeta said government has put in place draft targets to increase the productivity of the country’s rangelands, cropland and forested land, as well as for reducing the area of degraded land through bush encroachment.

The targets include reforesting and increasing the productivity of 13.8 km2 (1380 ha) forests which have been converted into croplands or shrubs, grasslands and sparse vegetation by 2040; to improve the productivity of 104 013 km2 (10,4 M ha) of shrubs, grasslands and sparsely-vegetated areas currently showing signs of declining productivity by 2040; to improve the productivity of 14 849 km2 (1.5 M ha) of cropland by 2035; reduce bush encroachment on 18 880 km2 (1,9 M ha) by 2040 and maintain the current soil organic carbon levels beyond 2040: Forests at 17 t/ha; Shrubs, grasslands, sparselyvegetated land, Cropland at 14 t/ha; and Wetlands at 16 t/ha.

Over 70 per cent of Namibia’s land area is used as croplands and rangeland for cattleranching and small stock, much of which is recognized as being highly vulnerable to degradation.

In 2014, Namibia finalized and launched its Third National Action Programme to the UNCCD (NAP3), which provides an overall strategic framework for Namibia’s priority interventions in the area of desertification, land degradation and drought for the period 2014-2024.

“The objective of NAP3 is to prevent and reverse desertification and land degradation in affected areas, and to mitigate the effects of drought in Namibia in support of poverty reduction and environmental sustainability.

The framework document also commits Namibia to the nationallevel achievement of land degradation neutrality,” Shifeta noted.

The NAP3 document states that by 2018, information on the risks Namibia faces and the need to combat desertification at a national scale is produced, made easily accessible and actually used by policymakers, landmanagers, researchers and educational institutions.

It noted that the policy and institutional frameworks are effectively implemented and strengthened to address desertification, land degradation and drought by 2024.

In addition, a functional desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) monitoring system would be in place by 2018 as well as supportive processes for Namibia to move towards land degradation neutrality.

The document also aims for degradation and desertification processes in focal landscapes to be halted and reversed by 2024, and communities and ecosystems strengthened to mitigate the impacts of drought.

It also aims to see financial lending and grant- making facilities in place, and supporting communities and small-scale farmers to implement sustainable land management by 2017.

Lastly, it aims to have research on aspects of sustainable land management and climate change science in support of adaptation and mitigation being mainstreamed in research and tertiary educational institutions and extension services by 2020.

Shifeta said MET and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry jointly developed a country programme on Climate Smart Agriculture for the period 2015-2030.

This programme is central to Namibia’s approach to land-based adaptation, and aims to build the resilience of agricultural farming systems for enhanced food and nutrition security through six programmatic result areas.

“The six areas are improved productivity and incomes; building social and environmental resilience and associated mitigation co-benefits; Value-Chain Integration; Research for Development and Innovations for scaling-up climate smart agriculture; improving and sustaining agricultural extension services; and improved policy and institutional coordination,” he noted.

In addition, the National Rangeland Management Policy and Strategy of 2012, titled ‘Restoring Rangelands’ seeks to enable rangeland managers to manage their rangelands in such a way that productivity and biodiversity are restored and maintained.