Plant productivity average in January

Ellanie Smit
At the beginning of January, plant productivity in most of Namibia was average or below average, with some areas in the Kunene, Omusati and Oshana regions far below average.

These areas should be carefully monitored and drought preparedness plans updated in case the situation worsens, says rangeland specialist, Dr Cornelis van der Waal.

“Currently, plant growth tends to be below average in the central, northern and north-western parts of Namibia. The east and north-east are still above average, but plant productivity declined from the November high.”

He says that the worst areas include parts of northern Kunene, most of Omusati and northern parts of the Oshana regions, where plant growth is currently far below average.

Other areas that are below average include Khomas, central parts of Hardap, western Otjozondjupa, eastern Erongo and most of the Kunene Region.

Importance of rangeland management

Van der Waal says that 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 preventing land degradation.”

He said 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.

Then and now

Van der Waal further explains that the key component of the early warning system is based on freely available remote sensing technology that measures active vegetation growth across Namibia in near real-time.

He says that by 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 ten days during the rainy season (October to end of May) and are available on the website.