Rangelands better off than last year

Tracking plant growth during the rainy season
The general good rains received in many parts during the 2021 to 2022 rainy season mean dry carry-over grass material is currently still available, especially where stocking rates are low.
Dr Cornelis van der Waal
This time last year, rangelands were much drier across the country, except for the north-eastern parts of Namibia, where rangelands were greener in 2021 compared to October this year.

Currently, plant growth tends to be average to above-average, except for parts of the Kunene Region, which are slightly below average.

The general good rains received in many parts during the 2021 to 2022 rainy season mean dry carry-over grass material is currently still available, especially where stocking rates are low.

In these areas, be vigilant for veld fires and take the necessary precaution to protect animals and property in the event of a fire.

Rangeland maps should be interpreted as a traffic light. If an area remains red as the season progresses, ‘red lights’ should alarm us of a below-average forage production situation.

If, however, an area is mostly green for the entire season, the ‘green light’ means above-average forage production is most likely. Different scenarios can also develop, for example where a season starts red and ends green or vice versa.

Importance

Why is monitoring the status of rangelands important?

Livestock production in Namibia is almost entirely dependent on the productivity of its rangelands, which may plummet to near zero during severe droughts.

Rainfall variability results in severe management challenges for livestock farmers who need to balance animal forage requirements with the forage produced, as well as prevent land degradation.

This information can reveal which parts of the country are likely to be most affected by drought towards the end of the dry season, which allows sufficient time to plan drought-relief efforts.

How does the system work?

The key component of this early warning system is based on freely available remote sensing technology that measures active vegetation growth across Namibia in near real-time.

Comparing current vegetation activity patterns with the 10-year average for the same area during the same time of year provides an objective view of the rangeland status.

Detailed maps that display this status are produced every 10 days during the rainy season (October to end May) and are available on namibiarangelands.com.

** Dr Cornelis van der Waal is a rangeland specialist.