Friday, June 21, 2013

Namibia commits to fight desertification

By Hilma Hashange

The Namibian government has strengthened its efforts to find lasting solutions to address challenges currently facing the country such as drought, land degradation and desertification.

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism together with the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry have been working to help communities and farmers to cope with the challenges posed by climatic variability and the harsh environmental impacts.

Recently, government unveiled a N$218 million drought plan involving incentives for selling their livestock, making available new grazing land and improving water supply through the nationwide drilling of additional boreholes. “We are convinced that this must be the way forward for us to protect ourselves from the scourge of desertification, land degradation and drought,” said Minister of Environment and Tourism, Hon Uahekua Herunga.

The Ovitoto community, which is notorious for overstocking, was reminded that a substantial part of the government's drought assistance, comes in the form of a subsidy per head of animal sold.

Herunga, who was speaking at the World Day to Combat Desertification held in Ovitoto in the Otjozondjupa Region earlier this week, said the government has mainstreamed the issue of desertification into the country's national planning framework of Vision 2030 and the National Development Plans. Herunga related to the Country Pilot Partnership (CCP) Programme which ran from 2007 to 2012.

He said through the United Nations Development Programme which implemented the CCP Programme, over US$4 million was invested in various projects such as the establishment of conservation farming as well as community-driven approaches to sustainable land management and Community Based Rangeland Management Practices.

Herunga added that the national Action Programme aimed at implementing the provisions of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification is currently under development and will build on the successes and challenges experienced through the CCP Programme.

“These programmes have helped us to tackle a number of our shortcomings in the areas of policy, institutional and individual capacity, awareness-raising, monitoring and community engagement in land degradation issues,” said the minister.

Farmers from Opuwo, Gibeon and Ovitoto are some of the farmers who have benefited from the Community-Based Rangeland Management Practices whilst other rural communities especially in the eastern parts of the country have been supported to develop enterprises from the sustainable management of natural resources and value addition including guinea fowl rearing, bee keeping and horticulture production.

Namibia will play host to the 11th Conference of Parties to the United nations Convention to Combat Desertification in September this year and according to Herunga, the Convention is especially critical as Namibia is classified as either hyper-arid, arid or semi-arid. The conference will bring together more than 2,000 experts from around the country who will discuss and come up with decisions, actions and solutions to issues of desertification, land degradation and drought.

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