Namibia: Advice from radio triples farmer’s yields (By Johanna Absalom, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Namibia)

| February 11, 2013

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Radio plays a major role in getting agricultural information to farmers. Johanness Keshongo never misses a crop and animal farmers’ show on the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation’s Oshiwambo Radio Service. The pearl millet farmer learned about ripping and furrowing from the program. He has since adopted this method of conservation tillage on his five-hectare farm in the village of Okakoto.

After hearing the program, Mr. Keshongo became the first farmer in his area to rip and furrow his fields. This method of soil preparation helps plants gather water. The furrows direct rainfall directly to the base of the crop, and the ripping breaks up the sub-soil, which allows the roots to penetrate deeply into the ground. After trying ripping and furrowing, Mr. Keshongo’s millet harvest tripled to over 1000 kilograms per hectare.

He says, “I recognized that as a farmer I needed to plan ahead for the future. So I became a conservation tillage pilot farmer in 2010.” Because Mr. Keshongo was a demonstration farmer, he was provided free of charge with a tractor-mounted ripper-furrower equipped with wings. He explains how the equipment works: “The wings make a furrow that collects rainwater and channels it into the ripped area where the plants will grow.”

Since 2011, Mr. Keshongo has received assistance to expand ripping and furrowing from a local NGO, Creative Entrepreneurs Solutions, or CES. Mr. Keshongo says, “I heard about the upscaling of ripping and furrowing on radio from representatives from Creative Entrepreneurs Solutions. They were giving out information about their partner organizations’ activities.” After the broadcast, Mr. Keshongo asked the agriculture extension officer to link him to CES.

Before hearing about ripping-furrowing on the radio, Mr Keshongo used tractor-borne disc-ploughs. Using tractors is common in Namibia amongst both commercial and small-scale farmers. Farmers often hire tractors owned by a farmer in a nearby village. They usually pay about 300 Namibian Dollars, about US $40, to plough one and a half hectares.

Andreas Tweendeni is the Field Coordinator at Creative Entrepreneurs Solutions. He is pleased that this method of land preparation has been widely accepted in Okakoto. He says, “From only one farmer in 2009, now 40 farmers at the village have adapted the practice and more are keen.”

Tractor availability is a challenge. CES has only one tractor mounted with a ripper-furrower for the 40 farmers. Sometimes the tractor is not ready by the start of the rains due to maintenance issues.

Mr. Keshongo says that since he adopted dryland conservation tillage practices, he has solved the problem of not enough moisture in the soil. Along with ripping and furrowing, farmers have also adopted other, complementary practices.

He explains, “Instead of broadcasting seeds, we now sow in rows 30 centimetres apart. We also apply fertilizers and manure only after sowing as opposed to before ploughing.” When thinning, he leaves only one seedling in a stand. Previously, he would leave three to four. The new practice ensures that each seedling gets more nutrients.

Meanwhile, Mr. Tweendeni is a regular guest on the farm radio show, and provides information on new farming initiatives. Like other radio stations, NBC continues to pass along important information to its farmer-listeners.