The main objective of the original project was to promote economic advancement through development of semi-commercial range management schemes in targeted communities.

After project reformulation, the objective became to improve the economic and social well-being of the rural population in the Northern Communal Areas by promoting increased livestock production and greater productivity and ensuring development of a sustainable range management system with more equitable distribution of assets and resources.


  • sustainable range management, with emphasis on:
  • community management of rangelands and infrastructures, financed through the project; and
  • construction of water-points, cofinanced with communities;
  • provision of livestock support services to advance and promote improved livestock production techniques through adaptive research, improved extension and establishment of a small stock seed capital fund;
  • improvement of the animal health infrastructure and delivery of veterinary services;
  • training for farmers, communities and project staff to complement experience gained in project activities; and
  • strengthening institutional support to achieve project coordination at central and regional levels.


The Northern Regions Livestock Development Project has been instrumental in encouraging a more integrated approach to regional and national agricultural development planning. Substantial efforts have been made to improve the project’s focus on poverty reduction. Staff capabilities have been enhanced through training in specialized and interactive skills for dealing with rural communities, which has improved the targeting of activities to resource-poor communities and households.

A mid-term evaluation recommended reformulation to adopt a more participatory approach that would allow wider involvement of farm communities. This resulted in preference for incremental development of community management of range resources and elimination of references to semi-commercial ranches; target communities were reduced to 60. Greater emphasis was placed on gender issues. Provision was made for a small stock seed capital fund as a major activity under the community development fund; funds were reallocated and more resources were transferred to institutional development.

There has been a noticeable improvement in animal production as a result of improved quality of small stock and increased beneficiary awareness of the need for improved animal husbandry. Some problems remain, however, especially related to animal mortality and fertility rates. The project has made considerable progress in improving animal health by installing infrastructures such as crush pens and dip tanks for small stock. It has substantially improved access to veterinary services by establishing veterinary rural extension centres and training para-veterinary community animal health assistants.

There have been achievements in resource mapping and the mapping of indigenous knowledge of land units using geographic information systems (GIS), which have not yet been widely used. The number and distribution of water points have been considerably increased to provide water for people and livestock. Initial training in management of the new facilities has been given to water-point committee members.

Organizations and people

Poor livestock performance has been blamed on the ineffectiveness of the technical extension system. This resulted from shortages of qualified field personnel, transport, support facilities and adequate extension packages. Lack of resources for recruitment of professional staff prevented the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development from operating effectively.



To establish an extension system and support facilities, and recruit and train project support staff including agricultural extension technicians.

To provide technical assistance and recruit staff for it, including a rural sociologist, a livestock and range management specialist, a deputy project coordinator, a financial controller, a monitoring and evaluation officer and four regional coordinators.

To support farmer training in, for example, environmentally sound range management practices, and control stocking rates through on-farm workshops and courses.

To promote community organizations that would develop the framework for essential services, community management of rangelands and construction of water points.


Agricultural extension technicians participated in a study tour. Staff of the Directorate of Extension and Engineering Services were trained in financial control and use of computers. In-service training in farming systems and range resource management, community empowerment and gender awareness was provided to 95 ministry staff; two were supported in first degree studies. Staff training included a workshop on water-point development, training in nursery management and poultry farming and study of animal traction in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The rural sociologist prepared guidelines on grazing systems and rangeland management and a guide for working with project communities. The range management specialist prepared a resource survey manual, GIS guidelines, sustainable range management guidelines and a summary of the adaptive research programme.

Farmer-to-farmer study tours were arranged. Farmers were trained in improved animal health and breeding, poultry farming, cattle selection, cattle grading, range management, cooperative efforts, animal husbandry, book-keeping, small business management and disease diagnosis. No training was provided in participatory planning or livestock marketing. Courses in organization and management were arranged for farmers’ union and women’s group members; 56 water-point committee members were trained in organization and management, book-keeping and machinery servicing.

By 1999, progress had been made in community institutional development. In Kunene region, farmers’ associations had been formed and the Kunene North Communal Farmers Union (KUNOCOFU) had been established. By 2000, KUNOCOFU had involved the community in the construction of 50 km of road to improve access to markets and taken an interest in livestock marketing, raising issues regarding the role of the Meat Corporation (Meatco) in local cattle sales.

In the North Central Division, a working group on community-based organizations was established in the Farming Systems Research and Extension Unit. Nine community-based organizations were established which purchased small stock and distributed 241 goats to women and 10 donkeys to men.

In Caprivi, community development committees were formed; the Likwama farmers’ cooperative concentrated on feed lots, quarantine and water point development and purchased small stock for 52 beneficiaries.

Access to inputs and infrastructure

Water is an essential element of rural development in the Northern Communal Areas. Grazing patterns, seasonal migration and animal and human productivity are functions of the availability of water. Increasing human and animal populations are causing environmental degradation at some locations where water is available; large areas where water is available only during the wet season are under-utilized.

Since independence, most donor support in these areas has been directed to water development, with emphasis on improving domestic water supplies. Little attention has been given to the effects of water-point development on rangeland management.

Water infrastructure is a high government priority; it features prominently in the Second National Development Plan and the long-term strategy document Vision 2030.

Planned Achieved

To develop watering points partially financed by communities, with beneficiary involvement in planning, use and maintenance; 67 small excavation dams were to be constructed, 21 in Kunene, 20 in North Central Division and 26 in Caprivi, including six demonstration dams.

To support excavation of 30 pans in Okavango, rehabilitation of 30 boreholes in Okavango and construction of 12 new boreholes – seven in North Central Division and five in Okavango.

To support communities in constructing auction pens under the cost-sharing principle, with the communities taking responsibility for management and maintenance.

By 1999, five demonstration dams had been constructed with community contributions in Caprivi and 14 in the North Central Division.

A hydro-geological survey was carried out to assess 31 proposed borehole sites in Kunene, North Central Division and Caprivi. As a result, two community boreholes were drilled in Kunene and three in North Central Division, with a further 11 planned for Caprivi. In Okavango, 11 boreholes have been installed and equipped with windmills.

Risk management

Demand for livestock is strong in the Northern Communal Areas. A recent study set up by the European Commission for the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development concluded that substantial investment was needed in infrastructures to meet the requirements of potential livestock markets.



To establish a small stock seed capital fund under the umbrella of the community development fund to enable poor households to procure goats, pigs, chickens and rabbits.

To make grants to help farmers establish initial herds; beneficiaries would contribute 25% of the purchase price, the project 75%. Young couples, returnees, former fighters without cattle or small stock and households headed by women were targeted.

To support a livestock marketing study of:

  • marketing patterns and the attitudes of farmers to livestock marketing;
  • the impact of pricing structures on decisions to sell animals;
  • bush meat enterprises; and
  • farmers’ restocking policies and the potential benefits of marketing improvements.

By October 2001, more than 850 goats and 20 donkeys had been purchased and distributed to livestock-poor households, 70% of which were headed by women. In North Central Division, 132 goats and two donkeys were distributed among 20 households. In Caprivi, 396 goats were distributed among 52 households. In Okavango, 65 households purchased 198 goats and 22 chickens. The communities screened beneficiaries to ensure that they met the selection criteria. No mechanism has been developed through which beneficiaries may contribute to the small stock seed capital fund in their communities so that it can be expanded to include other livestock-poor households

The livestock marketing study was completed in 1999. The results would be significant in producing a marketing strategy, but the study did not adequately address livestock owners’ need for credit to prepare and market their animals.

Range management

The major constraints on livestock production in the Northern Communal Areas were:

  • uncontrolled fencing, which limited the rangeland available for communal grazing;
  • environmental degradation of rangelands resulting from increasing stock numbers;
  • frequent drought and lack of coping strategies, resulting in stock losses; and
  • lack of proven technologies for range management and improvement and fodder production.

Pastoralists and agro-pastoralists in the Northern Communal Areas do not perceive rangeland and productivity levels as a major constraint. Anticipated increases in the numbers of people and livestock and reduced communal grazing areas as a result of illegal fencing mean that livestock densities in remaining common lands will increase substantially and there will be adverse effects on vegetation and range condition. Anticipation and avoidance of potentially disastrous effects on the capacity of rangeland to support livestock-based livelihoods lie at the heart of the project design.



To support development of technologies and monitoring methodologies for improving rangeland by developing research facilities, training capacity, on-farm trials and technology transfer.

To establish trial enclosures on community rangelands from which livestock would be excluded in order to research the effects of resting strategies.

To finance a study of the potential of satellite imaging to provide information on recent changes in rangeland conditions.

Baseline surveys resulted in development of guidelines for sustainable livestock and rangeland development.

Significant advances have been made in Kunene region, where project staff completed a manual on natural resources and livestock production systems, identifying constraints and potentials for development. Range trials in North Central Division were suspended in 1999 because of the deaths of exotic livestock species and poor rainfall.

By 2001, the project had developed the GIS, which consisted of detailed maps of range resources and infrastructure, including water points, crush pens and dips, available on CD-ROM. Local resource maps developed at the community level focus on defining land-use units such as wet- and dry-season grazing and types of soil and vegetation. They provide site-specific information that assists development of sustainable livestock and range management strategies and new infrastructure. GIS is expensive to install, however, and difficult to use without extensive training.

Livestock feeding



To support on-farm trials and adaptive research for the development of new technologies relating to:

  • conservation of crop by-products for winter feed;
  • introduction of alley farming and forage crops in farming systems;
  • use of salt licks;
  • introduction of perennial grasses, and fodder grasses in oshanas (small, shallow water ponds); and
  • possible introduction of leguminous forage bushes and fodder trees.

By July 1999, adaptive research had begun into the potential resistance of some perennial legumes and grasses and the role of legumes in under-sowing and alley-cropping systems. Adaptive fodder research trials in Kunene were stopped because they failed to produce positive findings as a result of unfavourable environmental conditions. By 2000, the Directorate of Agricultural Research and Training had suspended adaptive research trials in all regions except Caprivi, where forage and legume intercropping trials and studies on the use of pigeon pea in feed rations continued. Some 98 farmers from 25 communities participated in these trials. In response to farmers’ requests for supplies of legume seed, the Directorate of Extension and Engineering Services began to distribute Centrocema spp., lab-lab and pigeon pea, together with information on the use of crop residues for supplementary feeding.

Animal husbandry

Commercial livestock production accounts for over 80% of national agricultural GDP. It involves 4 500 farmers on 6 000 large farms that cover 52% of agricultural land. Livestock production on communal areas accounts for 10-12% of agricultural GDP; it is largely confined to the northern part of the country, supporting about 900 000 people in 150 000 households. Stock owners in communal areas are mainly subsistence farmers.

Men and boys are traditionally responsible for livestock management, particularly cattle; women and girls are responsible for arable agriculture. As a result of an increase in households headed by women and the absence of men, women play an increasingly prominent role in livestock management; they control poultry and pigs and may sell or slaughter them without men’s approval. Poultry in particular are an important source of household protein and a ready source of income for women as cash or barter.



To support adaptive research into small livestock, including chicken and pig development and upgrading of local breeds.

To initiate a herd-management programme by introducing indigenous Sanga bulls.

A study of the reproductive and production potential of indigenous pigs began at Mashare research station in 1997. Under the programme, 15 farmers received 28 animals, agreeing to return three piglets over a period of two years. The pigs were monitored to determine fertility and production potential under conditions of stress. Serious problems emerged: costs and difficulties of obtaining suitable food, poor husbandry practices and high incidence of disease at the village level. The pig-breeding programme was therefore stopped. A chicken-breeding programme started at Mashare, selling 80 chicks per week to the communities. In 2000, however, there was abnormally high mortality among birds sold to beneficiaries.

The bull-breeding programme started in 1997, in which 18 bulls were introduced into to five pilot communities. In Kumene, animal traction demonstrations were carried out. Extension work on animal draught implements included training 1 900 farmers and blacksmiths in their maintenance and repair. Credit facilities to encourage farmers to use draught animals as an alternative to tractors were provided through the Agricultural Bank.

Livestock health

Certain animal diseases in Namibia are classified as scheduled and are controlled because of their potential to cause high economic loss. They include foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP), anthrax, brucellosis and trypanosomiasis in cattle, sheep scab, African swine fever, Newcastle disease in poultry and rabies in all mammals. In terms of potential economic impact, FMD and CBPP are the most significant. Outbreaks are limited to the northern regions, where veterinary services are primarily concerned with FMD and CBPP control. Veterinary services in the Northern Communal Areas suffer from inadequate infrastructure, dilapidated facilities and lack of qualified staff. Inadequate financing for infrastructure and facilities means that the quality of animal health services is declining while delivery costs are rising.

Planned Achieved

To rehabilitate and construct 504 crush pens, 36 in Kunene, 220 in North Central Division, 145 in Okavango and 100 in Caprivi.

To construct veterinary rural extension centres to act as bases for animal health inspectors and drug distribution. Animal health inspectors were to be supplied with cool boxes for drug conservation.

To provide transport facilities to the Directorate of Veterinary Services to facilitate field activities. Field staff were to receive support facilities and equipment such as short-wave radios; laboratory equipment was to be provided to Ondangwa laboratory.

To provide training for community livestock workers to provide animal health and extension services.

To provide funds for small research programmes into the epidemiology of small stock, and develop a low-cost feed-based vaccine for Newcastle disease.

About 760 crush pens have been constructed or renovated. The benefits were demonstrated by control of an FMD outbreak in 2000 in the Caprivi region: the state veterinary officer attributed the effectiveness of the vaccination programme to the fact that the crush pens improved veterinarians’ access to livestock. One auction pen was also constructed in Kunene region. The number of auction pens constructed has been low because of changes in stock buying that have reduced demand for the facilities, and the reduction in Meatco activities in the Northern Communal Areas.

All veterinary rural extension centres have been constructed and supplied with drugs. Each centre was staffed with a resident animal health inspector and para-professional community animal health assistants. Improvements in staffing, services and drug supply have stimulated an increase in the number of livestock owners seeking veterinary assistance from the centres in the Northern Communal Areas and Kavango region, from none in 1997-1998 to about 1 000 in 2000-2001.

The project has provided radio equipment to improve communications among field staff and for monitoring and surveillance purposes, and procured transport, computers and laboratory equipment for Ondangwa veterinary laboratory. The laboratory is still not equipped to undertake a range of pathological tests, however.

The Newcastle disease research has shown that millet cannot be used as a carrier for the heat-stable vaccine. There are cheaper vaccines, so research has been stopped.

The project supported testing and establishment of a cost-effective, user-pays drug procurement system. The project adopted a policy of full cost recovery for routine veterinary services, except for scheduled disease control. Potential suppliers have been trained in the use of drugs and medicines, accounting and stock control.

Lessons learned

  • Support should be included for investment geared to stimulating interaction with traders in animals and livestock products, especially when dealing with agro-pastoral communities reliant on communal range resources. This would facilitate access to livestock markets and increase marketing opportunities.

  • Rural livelihoods are based on various forms of mixed farming, often supplemented with income from off-farm or non-farming sources such as small-scale business enterprises, pensions and remittances. Greater prominence should have been given at the design stage to potentially positive linkages between crops and livestock; production, processing and marketing of non-livestock/non-farm products; and investment in small-scale service enterprises.

  • Range and livestock development with full community participation is a long-term process; project planning must reflect this.

  • Mobilization of communities to participate in livestock development cannot begin with the poorest households, but great care must be taken not to exclude them. They can benefit from community development projects and income-generating activities.

  • The livelihoods and incomes of livestock owners depend on their animals; they are not willing to adopt new management systems that allow them to make more money, improve herd output or save time.

  • Modalities for livestock distribution in communities should be carefully examined to ensure that beneficiaries obtain suitable animals and that they have the animal husbandry skills to manage and build on their investment. Project staff should make follow-up visits for this purpose.

  • Pasture trials require a long-term approach, because it takes time to obtain quantitative data and results that can be extended and adopted by farmers.

  • Continued lack of clear guidelines regarding the national and regional management information system of the project and the principles governing development of technical programmes consistent with the agreed objectives had detrimental effects on project performance.

  • There should be a sustainable participatory approach that involves community and interest groups in the design of project activities. The pressure to increase fund disbursement rates contributed to premature expansions of operations and replication of interventions on a wider scale without beneficiary commitment and involvement.

  • Future projects should emphasize strengthening of community and household capacities to manage natural, human, financial and social resources more efficiently and to improve access to a wider range of external resources through self-organization.

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