From 17-19 July 2017 more than 120 scientists, rangeland practitioners, development agents and farmers descended on the Out of Africa Lodge in Otjiwarongo to attend the 21st annual Namibia Rangeland Forum (NRF). The theme for this milestone event was “Rangelands in a changing world” and a total of 17 high quality and relevant presentations were made by a good mix of local and international scientists and farmers. Presentations covered results from the OPTIMASS rangeland research project that is jointly implemented by German Universities, UNAM and NUST. It also included practical experiences and best practices of leading farmers in Namibia. The different sub-themes covered topics like restoration of savannah ecosystems, biodiversity in rangelands, productivity under different rangeland management systems, the use of bush as fodder during droughts, value addition to bush products and energy from bush.

 

On the final day a field visit was arranged to farm Hebron of Mr Gerd Wölbling close to Okakarara to get first-hand evidence of a young progressive farmer overcoming the challenges that the harsh and degraded rangelands in Namibia have to offer. Gerd is the third generation on this farm and has managed to create a prime example of what can be achieved through dedication, vision and hard work. He realised very early on that too many bushes are detrimental to veld condition and productivity and was negatively affecting livestock production. He decided to address the bush encroachment situation on his farm as a means of improving rangeland production and resilience, and has thus far covered more that 80% of the farm. 

 

In any given year, Gerd uses only two-thirds of his farm for livestock, while the remaining one-third is cut for hay. This is done on a rotational basis, meaning that a specific camp or area is cut once every three years. Through this practice he ensures long rest periods for his veld to restore root reserves of perennial grasses and then properly graze them again to maximise livestock production. This practice has allowed Gerd to increase his productivity of beef per hectare up to 300% more beef per hectare compared to areas where no bush control has taken place.  Nonetheless, after-care is an essential component of his management, to prevent regrowth of aggressive invader bushes.  For this he uses mainly manual labour, in the process employing large numbers of people, jobs which would not been there otherwise.

 

Farm Hebron is an excellent example of what is possible when one combines a clear vision, dedication and lots of hard work to create and maintain a profitable and sustainable farming enterprise. What makes it most remarkable is that it is achieved on a farm of just over 5 000 hectares, considered by many nowadays as too small to be profitable.  Let us learn from what Gerd and his family are doing and let it be an example and a motivation for existing and aspiring farmers. Well done Gerd and continue to inspire us.

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European Union

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