Bush encroached land to be reduced

19 November 2018 | Agriculture

Namibia aims to reduce bush encroachment on 1.9 million hectares of land within the next two decades. According to environment minister Pohamba Shifeta, this is one of Namibia's land degradation neutrality targets.

He was speaking at a Workshop on Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting and Restoration Opportunities in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Bush encroachment affects 26 to 30 million hectares of farmland in Namibia – roughly 30% of the country's land area. This severely reduces biodiversity and the formation of groundwater, and lowers the productivity and livestock capacity of pastureland by up to two thirds. This in turn causes economic losses of some N$2 billion every year due to reduced meat production.

Shifeta said that other targets are to reforest and increase the productivity of 1 380ha of forests that have been converted into croplands or shrubs, grasslands and sparse ve-getation by 2040. He added that the country also aims to improve the productivity of 41 430ha of forest area that is currently showing early signs of decline.

Namibia further aims to improve the productivity of 104 million hectares of shrubs, grasslands and sparsely vegetated areas showing signs of declining productivity. Other targets are to improve the productivity of 1.5 million hectares of cropland by 2035 and to maintain the current soil organic carbon levels beyond 2040.

According to Shifeta, targets that have been set in in the Sustainable Development Goals state that by 2020, SADC must combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and should strive to achieve a land-degradation neutral world.

“Africa took the lead on this issue at the 21st Ordinary Session of the AU Summit in 2013, calling on member states to place desertification, land degradation and drought at the ­centre of the Post-2015 ­Development Agenda.”

He said this highlights the importance that land degradation neutrality has to the continent and SADC. “However, in less than 12 years, governments will be brought to account in terms of the extent to which we have achieved the 2030 SDGs.”

Other than the targets that have been set, Namibia has also incorporated this in its Fifth National Development Plan. “We have conducted detailed assessments of land degradation in two of our 'land degradation hotspot' regions – Otjozondjupa and Omusati.”

Shifeta said they are currently consulting communities regarding interventions in these areas while carrying out detailed assessments of land degradation in other regions. “Although I am pleased with the progress so far, this has mainly focused on monitoring the baseline of land degradation and setting targets to achieve land degradation neutrality. What we really need is transformative action to achieve the targets we have set.”

Shifeta added that Namibia completed the ratification process for the SADC Protocol on Environmental Management for Sustainable Development last month, which contains important provisions for state parties from the region to take measures to combat desertification and land degradation and to implement ­sustainable land management practices.

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