Community-based adapatation in Namibia – a tool to enhance conservation tillage practices
SUBMITTED ORGANISATION :
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
DATE OF SUBMISSION :
The UNDP-GEF Community-Based Adaptation (CBA) project in Namibia addresses serious issues brought about by extreme climate events resulting from climate change. The project ’s both long-term and short-term objectives combine community skills and involvement with innovative agriculture practices; the project aims to increase community participation and awareness and build relevant capacity and skills to manage the uncertainties of climate change. The twelve villages participating in the project are comprised of a diverse audience of community members, including vulnerable children and their communities.1 The target groups consist of subsistence farmers (most of whom are women and youth) who are most likely to depend on the affected and impacted environments for subsistence and cash incomes. The project is piloting six coping strategies that have the potential to become longer-term adaptation methods for communities. These coping strategies include (1) ensuring greater water security in the region in the face of increasing climate change pressures, (2) production of vegetables irrigated by flood waters, (3) improvement of dryland crop production, (4) increased use of new and drought-resistant crops, (5) introduction of energy efficient stoves and (6) increased awareness about adaptation and mitigating strategies. At present, the methods are being piloted at different sites. A comparative analysis of the pilots’ results will be undertaken to assess the effectiveness and applicability of each strategy (or combination thereof ) at different sites and in various countries. This information will help inform community decisions on the selection of coping strategies, including whether more than one strategy can be implemented at a time. Given the complexity of climate change impacts, this multi-strategy risk-transfer approach will be necessary in the future. The programme employs a holistic approach that addresses climate change adaptation threats and improves community livelihood. In Namibia, conservation agriculture (CA) is being applied at sites in the pilot regions as part of the CBA approach. Benefits of this approach range from social empowerment to increased crop yields. These impacts are real and are having a positive impact on the community-at-large. For example, community members are organizing into self-help groups (SHGs) to share knowledge and build capacity; families with HIV/AIDS are being supported through improved nutritional status as a result of increased food security; farm land quality is improving through composting, biochar, crop rotation and CA; fish and livestock farming are being supported through the provision of ponds and watering pans; and communities are growing other foods, such as rice, fodder and mushrooms. These diversified activities and actions from the CBA projects have provided an enabling environment for communities to improve their nutrition, gain extra income, and be better prepared for the difficulties associated with the ever-changing climates in their villages. These actions and resultant benefits have increased the resilience of communities as they continuously adapt to impacts of climate change.
adapting farming systems, conservation tillage, dry land crops, in-field water harvesting, community- based adaptation
Local climate change and its variability pose greater risks for vulnerable, poor, and marginalized communities due to the physical impact it makes there. Since 2009, the UNDP-GEF CBA project in Namibia has been working with 12 villages that are facing a number of key problems that stem from extreme local climate events (e.g. pronounced droughts and floods, rising and variable temperatures, increasingly unpredictable rainfall patterns and amounts, severe land degradation leading to loss of productive arable land and range, loss of livestock, as well as high levels of deforestation and over utilization of natural resources).
The agricultural sector in Namibia is particularly affected by climate change. Droughts and erratic rains, interspersed with floods that originate in Angola, plague the northern side of the country and leave brittle, nutrient-poor soil, which renders farm lands unproductive. This negatively affects food, water security and general livelihoods due to failed harvests, and decreases livestock numbers and products. The UNDP-GEF CBA project is working to safeguard livelihoods by encouraging target communities to improve farm gate incomes, diversify the sources of other farm-based incomes, and properly utilize farmlands.
The CBA project is also working with communities to build resilience and adaptive capacity to climate change in agro-pastoral communities and to foster community participation in the identification of climate drivers, risks and adaptive solutions. The target group is comprised of the most vulnerable community members, including women and children, that depend on rain-fed agriculture (e.g. planting pearl millet, maize, sorghum, ground nuts and cowpeas), natural resources (e.g. collecting fruit and oil from the wild), and livestock rearing for both subsistence and cash incomes in the semi-arid areas of northern Namibia.
The first step, and short-term objective of the project, is to enlist community participation in the vulnerability assessment and solutions-generation stage by bringing members together to identify the climate change drivers, risks and adaptive solutions. The project uses a vulnerability reduction assessment method to assist communities, through a participatory process, in determining an appropriate plan of action. This is done through cohesive social groups and trainings before piloting projects.
After the community has a solid understanding of the issues and options, the community can begin to implement effective solutions generated in a participatory way. This is the second step, and long-term objective of the CBA project. During this phase, the project targets the communities’ needs to build resilience and adaptive capacities. Communities apply a suite of actions to improve and strengthen their soil management practices, including the application of conservation agriculture in combination with appropriate crop rotation and crop residue retention and incorporation practices that, for example, add coping levels of staple food crops (Mahangu)2 and legumes (cow peas and ground nuts) when grown together in a single farm.
Conservation tillage as a tool for community-based adaptation
The CBA approach in Namibia is driven by national strategies on adaptation and aims to make a significant impact on community development, reduce poverty, and encourage capacity building to help identify climate change related factors and drivers.
A main focus of the project in Namibia is the promotion and application of conservation agriculture (see Box 1). The applied CA method via the Conservation Tillage Project (CONTILL) is specific to the Namibian agriculture circumstances. CONTILL, developed in 2005 through research and on-farm trials, encourages farmers to produce and apply compost-based fertilizer (manure), to practice minimal soil disturbance using ripping and furrowing, to create in-field water harvesting, and to apply crop rotations, which enable farmers to secure their own food supply and to market surpluses. As a result, farmers are leaving their age-old ineffective practices and quickly adapting to conservation tillage practices. Furthermore, CONTILL allows farmers to diversify production (for instance, of sunflower oil and chicken feed, simultaneously) to boost food security, income and nutrients. CONTILL is helping to reduce the negative effects of floods, drought and irregular rainfall patterns, rising temperatures, and soil degradation. In fact, this process is already showing great results with an increase in agricultural yields of up to 500%.
• Minimal soil disturbance through ripping and furrowing soils
• Crop residue retention and incorporation
• Crop rotations
Organizing community-based adaptation in Namibia
The project is bringing together community members to create a participatory process to engage stake-holders and build awareness and skills. This process brings together groups to discuss and develop adaptation strategies and carry out related exercises, such as vulnerability reduction assessments. Although, participation in these groups is voluntary, every effort is made to balance community representation. Support for local groups, and in some cases, the formation of the local groups, is being guided by the local non-governmental orginization (NGO) Creative Entrepreneurs Solutions (CES).
Creative Entrepreneurs Solutions
Creative Entrepreneurs Solutions is a local NGO that is working with communities to support the implementation of adaptation activities to optimize sustainable impact and empowerment of the target communities. CES applies a holistic and practical bottom-up implementation approach. It creates an enabling environment by collaborating with strategic partners and stakeholders (e.g. line ministries, local authorities, national and international institutions of higher learning, traditional authorities, farmer’s organizations, vocational training centers, NGOs, and community-based organizations [CBOs]) to form task teams to support communities.
Creative Entrepreneurs Solutions and its partners are establishing support systems for communities that are in dire need of assistance to cope with and adapt to changes in the local climate. Support systems provide assistance that ranges from advisory functions, informational provisioning, procurement of necessary tools, implements, and relevant seeds, production of compost fertilizers and services, to the fabrication and introduction of renewable energy technologies. This support system ensures a very high level of community participation and motivation. The support system, created and currently managed by CES, provides an enabling environment for targeted, sustained community development. It promotes sustainable livelihoods as a means to adapt to climate change. It emphasizes sustainable development founded on social mobilization and empowerment at group and/or community levels. It also encourages the formation of self-help groups (SHGs), and the utilization of the advantages of their cohesiveness, skills training, mentorship, and on site farmer-to-farmer learning through on-farm demonstrations. The support system is well organized and provides a mechanism in which other partners can channel support to communities for various developmental activities.
Self-help groups help to implement CBA strategies identified by community members and are buttressed by support systems, which help and cushion vulnerable communities to cope with and adapt to changes in the local climate. Community members are encouraged to form SHGs where one member of each community functions as that community’s coordinator, and is appropriately trained for this responsibility by CES’ partner organisation, Hand-in-Hand, Republic of South Africa (RSA). The SHGs are a platform for knowledge sharing, duplication of successful CBA strategies, savings and enterprise creation. The formation of SHG’s in Namibia is based on existing models in Africa and Asia that are founded on education, socialization and empowerment. These provide the necessary prerequisite to keep communities together and to pursue issues of common concerns, such as being involved in communitybased adaptation initiative in their localities.
The UNDP-GEF CBA Programme in Namibia comprises a cluster of 6 projects and became operational in December 2009. Since its inception, the programme has experienced robust levels of participation. Currently, there are 40 community members practicing the CONTILL CA method on their smallholding farms, and approximately 73 community members practicing and test-validating the practices on community-owned plots. A group of women, along with a few male partners from Onakapya, Ongungulume, Onkani, Onkaankaa and surrounding villages, formed OIKE, a women-led CBO that is testing CONTILL on several plots within their region in northern Namibia. The participating communities faced problems with flooding and or drought on their individual or community farms prior to working with UNDP. These issues led to crop failures and increased food insecurity. Through the application of CONTILL3 as a result of the UNDP GEF CBA project, these problems were successfully mitigated in late 2009.
Box 2: Namibian community participation in conservation tillage
Conservation Tillage on Smallholding CBA Participating Farms
40 community members practicing CONTILL on smallholding farms
Conservation Tillage on CBA Participating Community-Owned Plots
73 community members practicing and test-validating CONTILL on community-owned plots
CBA Participating Women-Led Conservation Tillage
OIKE and Siya/Kapako, local CBOs testing several plots in northern Namibia
The project has seen positive results to date due to three main factors: (1) use of effective equipment; (2) use of crop rotation and (3) use of an integrated approach.
Use of effective equipment
The use of effective equipment has been critical to the success of CONTILL in Namibia. A tractor-mounted ripper-furrower equipped with wings is being used to break up the soil; it breaks up the hard pan underneath the light-sandy topsoil at a depth of 30 cm, which allows for water retention and deep root penetration below the hard alkaline (salty) layer. This allows the feeder roots to reach the nutrients located below the 30 cm depth in the soil. At the same time, the wings make a furrow that collects rainwater and channels it to the base of the furrow and into the ripped area where the plants will grow. Research and on-farm trials show that this method is solving problems associated with limited moisture in the soil (i.e. drought), as well as flooding (by allowing and increasing infiltration). The in-field water harvesting channels rainwater to the plants basal area. During flooding, the abundant, excess water finds its way through the ripped compaction layer, infiltrating deep into the soil and preventing water logging. Ripping and furrowing can be adapted to traditional cultivation methods and can still be cost effective. The technology can accommodate pulling by both oxen and tractors with similar increases in harvest yields.
The farmland that was ripped and furrowed in January/February 2010, following CONTILL best practices, has done exceptionally well (see Photo 2). Although all of the project participants faced drought or flooding, their crops (pearl millet, beans, sorghum and maize) grew to maturity with higher yields than expected in fields that were conventionally farmed and only used traditional methods4. The project farmers received a bumper harvest from their CONTILL farmlands, particularly from pearl millet (Mahangu) – the national staple food crop in the region (see Photo 1 and Photo 2).
Typical degraded land area in northern region of Namibia before application of CONTILL Photo: Tuhafeni Nghilunanye/CES
How to do a social mapping of a village Photo: Marie Johansson/CES
Practical SHG session on how to cooperate Photo: Marie Johansson/CES
Siya group members with threshed mahangu Photo: Marie Johansson/CES
Tractor mounted ripper and furrower land preparation Photo: Courtesy of CONTILL/NRC
Drought resistant maize and other seeds Photo: Marie Johansson/CES
Acronyms and Abbreviations
CA Conservation agriculture
CBA Community-Based Adaptation
CBO Community-based organization
CES Creative Entrepreneurs Solutions
CONTILL Conservation Tillage Project – Namibia
FBO Faith-based organization
GEF Global Environment Facility
NGO Non-governmental organization
OIKE Omalundu Limuna Kommitiye Elungameno
SGP Small Grants Programme
SHG Self-help group
RSA Republic of South Africa
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
Glossary of Terms
CONTILL7: A method of conservation agriculture (CA) that was applied by the UNDP-GEF Community-Based Adaptation programme participants in the northern regions of Namibia: CONTILL applies ripping and furrowing of the soil, crop residue retention and incorporation, and crop rotations. The Namibian Conservation Tillage Project and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry jointly pioneered the method.
Conservation agriculture (CA): A farming method that aims to achieve sustainable, profitable agriculture and improve the livelihoods of farmers: CA is a way to combine profitable agricultural production with environmental concerns and sustainability. It has been proven to work in a variety of agro-ecological zones and farming systems. Practitioners perceive CA as a valid tool for Sustainable Land Management. CA is achieved through the application of minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover and crop rotations.
Community-based adaptation (CBA): A tool or strategy implemented by local actors to enhance the resilience and adaptive capacity of communities and ecosystems to the projected effects of climate change: This process takes a proactive, anticipatory and participatory approach to adaptation that considers local conditions, practices and indigenous groups. CBA draws on local knowledge and fosters community-driven innovation, which is shared and supplemented to inform best practices and improve local adaptive capacity.
Community-based organisations (CBO): A non-profit, civil-society organization driven and operated by community residents in all aspects of its existence: A CBO typically operates within a locality or a single low-income, indigenous community. Priority issue areas addressed by CBOs are identified and defined by residents through participatory and open forums, as well as surveys; solutions and priorities are locally generated. CBOs are self-funded and run by local residents on a voluntary basis. Some are formally incorporated, with a written constitution and a board of directors (also known as a committee), while others are much smaller and more informal.
Creative entrepreneurs solution (CES): A small local non-governmental organization (NGO) registered in Namibia that is undertaking activities in the northern Kavango, Ohangwena, Oshana, Oshikoto and Omusati regions: It cooperates with the Namibia Conservation Tillage Project and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry to pioneer CONTILL at CBA project sites.
self-help groups (SHG): A village-based community group that tends to meet regularly to provide support and share information among its members for mutual problem solving regarding savings, lending and enteraprise creation: These groups are usually composed of 10-15 local people, the majority of whom are women.
support systems: A local assembly of resource institutions, activities or services that aim to help farmers or community members in need. In the case of CA, support systems may help with manual work (e.g. ripping fields), education on farming practices (e.g. contouring fields, applying fertilizer, weeding and crop rotation), or provision of new products for planting (e.g. improved seeds and subsidized fertilizer). This assistance improves the livelihood of community members by ameliorating farming conditions and increasing financial wellbeing. Together, these boost the recipient’s cropping strategies and hopefully lead to long-term resilience and adaptation to climate change.
task teams: A group formed by local and national stakeholders to assist with the implementation of CBA activities. CES coordinates and gives direction to these teams, whose responsibilities range from mobilizing communities to creating an enabling environment, allocating communal land or contouring farmland.
1 In addition, Creative Entrepreneurs Solutions is also supporting Omalundu Limuna Kommitiye Elungameno (OIKE) with the implementation of CBA activities.
2 Local vernacular for Pearl Millet planted by the local communities in Namibia.
3 The Conservation Tillage Project (CONTILL) has been piloting and researching CA in Namibia since 2005. This work is ongoing and provides useful feedback that CONTILL uses to update and improve application of CA.
4 By mid March 2010, growth in one of the farms within the OIKE community fields, far west of the region which did not receive any rainfall at all after planting, was experiencing slow growth.
5 Marsdar, 1993. Conservation Agriculture in Namibia: An Introductory Guide, p. 37. Unpublished report by the NRC.
6 In the first year, farmers apply ripping/furrowing, which must be carried out with a tractor-mounted implement, as the hard crest under the topsoil is too tough to break with an animal drawn implement. However, from the second up to the fourth year, an animal drawn implement can be used. Then again, a tractor mounted ripper furrower is used in the fifth year and so forth in rotation for good results.
7 Implementation of the CONTILL in Namibia has been ongoing since 2005 by the Golden Valley Agriculture ResearchTrust, the Namibia Agronomic Board, the Namibia National Farmers Union, and the Namibia Resource Consultants. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) provides funding for this project. Farmers engaged in the participatory on-farm trials refer to CONTILL CA method as ‘Lima Nawa.’