WINDHOEK: Scientific research has shown that bush encroachment costs the Namibian economy nearly N.dollars 1 billion per year in terms of declining levels of livestock production.This was stated by the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa during the opening of the 16th Rangeland Forum that kicked off at a lodge here on Tuesday.
“It is a common fact that Namibia’s rangelands are largely degraded, and the symptoms are most visible in terms of soil erosion, loss of perennial grasses, deforestation and bush encroachment. Rangeland resources form the true and vital backbone of the economy, and will continue to play a major role in the livelihoods of current and future generations,” he noted.According to Mutorwa, it is also a known fact that around 30 million hectares of Namibian rangelands are to a larger or smaller extent already encroached on or threatened. This represents approximately 31,5 per cent of the country’s total land area.
The daily demand for food is high, and will continue to rise sharply as the world’s population keeps on growing, and its demand for especially protein increases.Mutorwa explained that there is currently a huge interest in combating bush encroachment and bush utilisation in Namibia.
Many companies, farmers and Government stakeholders are getting involved in combating bush encroachment, using different methods and also having different objectives in mind.In order to achieve the sustainable management of rangelands in the country, the minister proposed that awareness and education on the benefits and application of best rangeland management practices be extended to all, inclusive of learners and students.
“We must base our thinking on the fact that rangelands provide scientific services for which the user, or end-user, should pay to ensure the long-term health of our natural resources. We should stop viewing our farming as a survival tool in the short-term. Looking after our rangeland and ensuring a prosperous future for all of us, as well as for our children, are not opposing goals,” Mutorwa stressed.
He thus called on delegates to put the whole topic of bush encroachment under a critical but objective spotlight to find out exactly who is doing what, with a view to getting a practical working consensus on the way forward towards environmentally-sustainable bush control for the future.
The forum is taking place under the theme “Bush Encroachment – an Asset or Liability?”.Topics under discussion include incentives for implementing good rangeland management practices; the value of bushes for biodiversity and ecosystems’ functioning; an overview of bush encroachment in Namibia; and land management impacts on landscape processes that affect soil moisture balances, and so favour bush over soft grasses.
Another discussion set to take place this week is titled “Bush Encroachment – the Main Culprit for the Perceived Decline in Meat Production in Namibia?”.The forum ends on Thursday.