I am not sure if I have mentioned this before but I come from a farming family and that means that I spent a lot of my childhood on a farm. What is with the intro dude?
Well, today I aim at giving a little insight on what it is like to farm in Namibia. Namibia is a semi-desert land that is about 2.3 times the size of Germany. The rainfall in not dependable and for the past few years we have been experiencing weird climatic changes. From over-flooded to rains not coming at all. The majority of Namibians are pastoral and tend to farm on communal land that has been assigned to them during the Apartheid era of Namibia’s history (The apartheid government created homelands that did not belong to the people and they merely rented the land and paid and annual tax – which is still done to date- that is how they forced most people to work on farms etc. *This according to my grand neighbor in the village*).
These lands are on fertile soil but the dependence on rain means that the land is only used during the rainy season. That also means that the grass only grows ones per year and the farmers must make do with what is available. The crops they grow are mostly for subsistence purposes and selling is only done during some bartering transactions for meat or other necessities.
The animals they keep are cattle, goats, pigs, donkeys, sheep, chickens, and in some cases horses and turkeys. As of last year my village was severely affected by one of the worst droughts that my country has seen in 30 years. When I was studying in Germany I often heard stories of how bad it was, but being that my people tend to exaggerate I thought it being wolf’s cry. Seeing first-hand how some of my neighbors has been reduced it only brings sadness to my heart being that most men depended on those cattle as in my culture a man’s wealth and social status is often partially attributed to the number of cattle he has. Some have been reduced from a flock of 20 to a mere 3 -6. Being that having such a small number of cattle is seen as demeaning in a way, they give it to other men that have more cattle and those that send their cattle away can say that their flock has gone for feeding elsewhere where the area is less affected. Thus saving face.
Any way to cut a long story short, most cattle ranching operations are done on communal land. The small scale commercial farmers that are north of a so called red-line are suffering the most. The redline is a line that was also established by the apartheid government as a way to control disease that originates from Angola and Northern Namibia apparently. However my opinion is that it was put there to keep the prices of the black farmers that are mostly on the negative side of the "redline" lower than those of the white farmers that occupy the lands that are in the most productive area (receives the highest rainfall) of the country. It baffles me that this law has been in place until recent times but the Law Reform Society of Namibia is doing us some justice. For them I take my hat off.
Well the bottom line of this post is that, even though it seems cattle ranching in Namibia is a dream; it is not. It is for the passionate and it takes guts and perseverance. The unfavorable climatic conditions of the country take the practice to new levels of difficulty.