Room to grow : local knowledge, land use and legumes in the farming systems in northern Namibia
The complex and diverse nature of African contexts requires local solutions
derived with local farmers. The challenge is to find approaches that
strengthen farmers' capacity to adapt their systems sustainably. This
research, about the role of legumes in the farming systems of northern
Namibia, suggests an approach for improving the interface between farmers,
agricultural extension officers and researchers for generating and adapting
legume technologies for soil fertifity management.
Objectives include: an exploration of biophysical and socio-economic
contexts of the production environment to appreciate their affects on legume
production and productivity; an investigation of farmers' livelihood objectives,
choices, management practices and outputs and the bearing these have on
their use of legumes; an assessment of local and scientific knowledge
relating to farming the northern Namibian environment; an evaluation of
future legume prospects in northern Namibia. Research methods include
participatory mapping using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), rapid
rural appraisal and conventional agronomic techniques. The Sustainable
Livelihoods framework is used to analyse the effect of natural and human
capital assets on the role of legumes. A framework of local knowledge allows
spatial analysis to distinguish the impact of land diversity on farming choices
for different socio-economic groups.
Results identify the diversity of the biophysical and socio-economic
environment of northern Namibia. The local knowledge framework
distinguishes a number of land units facilitating an exploration of farmers'
rationale with respect to crop choices, management practices and
perceptions generally. Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), planted by the majority,
is the most important legume food crop. Wealthy farmers have larger and
more diverse land plots, labour and seed assets than do poorer households.
They are likely to grow a larger variety and quantity of grain legumes than
poor farmers. Legume technology for soil fertility management is not known
and local notions of fertility differ to those of formal science.