Nelly Bassily | July 14, 2008
Tjizembua Mbazuvara used to raise only cattle on his farm in eastern Namibia. Like many Namibian farmers, he focused his efforts on growing beef cattle for the local auction. But that was before he realized that he wasn’t making the most out of his farm, or his animals.
One day, while visiting his in-laws’ farm, he noticed maize meal and beans stored in their warehouse. It was feed they had grown on their farm for their animals. From that point forward, Mr. Mbazuvara was convinced that he should start growing crops to feed his family and his cattle. The bonus, he soon discovered, was that his animals could help him cultivate his fields.
Now that food prices are, in Mr. Mbazuvara’s words, “hitting the roof,” he’s encouraging others in his neighbourhood to start growing their own food. After attending an intensive draught power training program, he is about to formally begin training other farmers to cultivate their land with the help of animals.
Eliaser Ambata is Regional Coordinator of Namibia’s Draught Animal Power Acceleration Programme. He says that rising fuel prices have made tractors too expensive to operate. Demand for training in the use of draught power is growing.
Draught power is also becoming more popular in Ghana. Tractors were introduced to Ghana’s cotton producing regions in the 1960s and 1970s. But in recent years, they have fallen into disuse. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization studied some of the reasons that tractors became less popular. They are expensive to buy, maintain, and operate, and farmers found they weren’t getting a good enough return on their investment. At the same time, the migration of young people to cities makes it harder to find day labour. Draught power has filled the gap.
According to New Agriculturalist magazine, millions of donkeys are being used in parts of West Africa where donkeys had not been used before. Farmers find donkeys cheap, easy to manage, and adaptable to arid conditions. Other farmers are choosing animals such as cows that serve two purposes – providing draught power as well as milk and meat.
Mr. Mbazuvara finds that raising cattle and growing crops has improved his income and his food security. When the local cattle auction was temporarily closed, he was able to sell beans to cover his daughter’s school fees. He encourages other farmers to store both feed and food crops for a full year. In this way, they can be prepared in case of a poor harvest.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on draught power