Challenges facing communal farmers to improve cattle production and marketing systems in Namibia: case study from Omaheke region
Hangara, Gabriel Ngungaa
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The objective of the study was to examine the efficiency and constraints of cattle managerial practices and marketing systems in the four communal areas of the Omaheke region. The specific objectives of the study were to identify the most crucial managerial aspects having a negative effect on sustainable cattle production; to examine the sustainability of cattle supply chain management from farmer to processor; to examine the accessibility of market information to farmers and to identify the factors influencing the supply of cattle to market. The study was conducted in four communal areas, namely Aminius, Epukiro, Otjinene and Otjombinde of the Omaheke region in Namibia during 2008 and 2009. Questionnaires were developed and administered to 670 communal farmers and key informants of 3 farmers' associations, 4 farmers' co-operatives, a cattle auctioneer and beef processor. Data from questionnaires were entered into MS Excel spreadsheet and descriptive results analysis was done using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). In terms of examining the factors influencing the supply of cattle to market, Weighted Least Square (WLS) was used. The main constraints identified in the production system were incorrect bull:cow ratio (1 :38), low calving percentage and cattle mortalities and losses. The main causes of cattle mortalities and losses in the communal areas are drought, diseases, straying and theft, with a farmer losing an average of ten cattle per year. The managerial practices found to negate sustainable cattle production are weaning practices and record keeping. Communal cattle farmers are not utilising the available agricultural support services and constraints identified in the production system and shortcomings found in the managerial practices could be addresed if farmers visited the extension and veterinary offices for advice. In terms of marketing, the farmers were found to not be satisfied with the existing market and satisfaction levels of farmers differed significantly (p<0.05). The majority of farmers do not know the quality criteria used by buyers when determining prices for cattle classes and grades (p<0.05). The accessibility to market information was found not to be a constraint. The constraints facing the communal cattle farmers include low prices offered for cattle, buyers' late arrival or no show, slow payment process and buyers running out of cash, whereas those found to be facing auctioneers and buyers operating in communal areas include buying of poor quality cattle, and few number of cattle offer for sale. The lack of essential and safe facilities at market outlets was expressed as a constraint to cattle farmers, auctioneers and buyers in the study areas. The factors found to have an influence (p<O.01) on cattle sales in these communal areas are the number of cattle owned, cost of production inputs, accessibility to market information, accessibility to local markets and rainfall. Besides identifying challenges and constraints, the study pulled out policy-relevant findings and contextualises them for the Namibian situation. Firstly, a policy is needed to guide the management of grazing resources in communal areas. Secondly, the results of the study on factors influencing the supply of cattle to the market from the communal farming areas of the Omaheke region of Namibia call for a revisit of the policies and institutional framework to address the serious, embedded institutional deficiencies that limit many communal farmers from taking advantage of market opportunities. Thirdly, there are under-developed legal and regulatory systems with regards to title deeds of land in rural areas and other assets that could be used as collateral. Thus, a conducive policy environment should be created by government to establish tailor-made micro-financing to rural farming communities in order to have economically viable cattle production systems in communal areas.
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