Windhoek-Despite the consecutive droughts that have plagued Namibia in recent years, Cecilia Amutenya and her six children still have surplus food from farming on a 5-hectare piece of land in Omusati Region. All thanks to conservation agriculture (CA).
“I got plenty of food from my field this year, and I still have enough to take me through the dry season,” she says with a smile.
Namibia is rated to have the driest climate in sub-Saharan Africa. The north central regions receive a mean annual rainfall of about 270 mm and with literally all inland rivers being ephemeral, irrigation prospects are limited.
Amutenya first heard of CA when she attended a farmers field day at Omahenene research station organised by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF).
The European Union-funded CA works to strengthen the capacity of 45,000 small-scale farmers to manage climate-related risks in northern Namibia.
After the field day, she continued to receive training on CA through MAWF extension officers, with technical support from the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
“I work hard to make sure I have food for my family. I rely on my hands, my tools, my seeds and whatever little water we get. I bury my crop deep where it has moisture, even when there is no rain,” Amutenya explains.
Emily Shipateko, an agricultural extension technician, has been working with Amutenya and farmers in Onkani village.
On a regular basis during the peal cropping season she visits the farmers giving them hands-on training and advice on their fields.
She testifies to Cecilia’s hard work and how the practice of CA has changed her fortunes.
“I have been working with her for two years, she is a hard worker, she extended her field this year from four hectares to five hectares and since she started practising CA the yield has increased and we are getting more from the same area,” Shipateko says.
Contrary to the popular belief that CA is labour-intensive, she encourages farmers to view it positively.
“I don’t think CA is labour-intensive because all you have to do when you cultivate is follow the lines. The grass that is in between the lines is left as it is and the soil is not disturbed,” she says.
“Agriculture is not for poor people. In fact, if you are into agriculture you will be rich because when you sell something you get money for your pocket – and that’s what I do.”
Most of her peers have often discouraged her, asking her why she cultivates the whole field when she is alone.
“I just try my best. I know what I am going to get when I harvest,” Amutenya maintains, adding that even for a woman, ploughing and cultivating are easy.
Complemented by other good agriculture practices, including the use of quality seeds, and integrated pest, nutrient, weed and water management, as well as the use of sustainable mechanization approaches, CA can serve as a basis for market-driven and sustainable intensification of agricultural production.