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Agricultural adaptation, local knowledge and livelihoods diversification in North-Central Namibia

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A. J. Newsham (ed)
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The potential implications of climate change have started to receive more attention in Namibia. Water demand in the country is projected to exceed its extraction capacity by 2015, meaning that climate change will adversely affect the agricultural sector. This report looks at adaptation to climate change amongst smallholder farmers in the Omusati region of North-Central Namibia. The report has the following aims:

surveys information on projected or potential climate change impacts on farming in Namibia and considers the implications for policy decision-making processes
focuses attention on the local agro-ecological knowledge found across North-Central Namibia
takes stock of the implications for adaptation policy of livelihoods diversification away from farm-based activities.

The authors presents the following findings relating to: (i) The value of agro-ecological knowledge for adaptation policy:

agro-ecological knowledge in Namibia has served farmers as a source of adaptive capacity to historical climate variability
agro-ecological knowledge does not inform agricultural extension in any systematic way and the conditions that facilitate the kinds of ‘knowledge co-production’ are not well understood
it is important to value but not romanticise agro-ecological knowledge until the causes of land degradation are understood.

(ii) Adaptation and livelihoods diversification:

in Omusati, there is growing evidence of livelihoods diversification into off-farm activities which may be a more plausible long-term adaptation strategy but could, negatively, lead to different forms of entrenched poverty
the potential pitfalls of livelihoods diversification makes the process of knowledge co-production even more significant.

The following priorities for action and research are highlighted in the publication.

It is necessary to develop a fuller understanding of the conditions for knowledge co-production, such as Botswana’s ‘hybrid knowledge’, to strengthen resilience, and how to incorporate agro-ecological knowledge into adaptation policy.
Historical research into changes to farming practice over time should be carried out to ascertain what has changed and whether this made farming practice more or less sustainable over time in order to understand land degradation in Northern Namibia.
Livelihoods diversification, if accepted as a long term adaptation strategy, needs to focus on developing tools and policy instruments to facilitate diversification into higher value activities and low-carbon development simultaneously.

The authors recommend sections 4 and 5 of the report to further understand the link between livelihoods diversification and climate change adaptation.