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Land-use and legumes in northern Namibia--The value of a local classification system

Hillyer, A.E.M., McDonagh, J.F., Verlinden, A.
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2006 v.117 no.4 pp. 251-265
land use, crop rotation, Fabaceae, traditional farming, indigenous knowledge, land management, soil fertility, crop yield, land ownership, grain crops, farmers' attitudes, farm surveys, Namibia
Research was conducted in northern Namibia to document and investigate the value of local knowledge connected with soil and land management, in particular with respect to the cultivation of grain legumes. Participatory approaches were used to describe and map the indigenous land unit (ILU) classification system in four villages. Soil and crop analyses indicated good correspondence between conventional productivity assessments and farmers' more qualitative descriptions of the ILUs. Patterns of land ownership were investigated to explore the relationship between the diversity of ILU land-holding, location and history of settlement. Results demonstrated that farmers have developed a sophisticated yet practical framework for managing their land that integrates knowledge of land type, productivity and optimum management under different rainfall scenarios in an unpredictable environment. The framework also clarified the perspective of farmers with regard to growing grain legumes. Their apparent reluctance was more often a pragmatic and rational decision to use the land for something more suitable. The authors conclude that an understanding of this framework offers real benefits to local professionals working for extension institutions and NGOs in agricultural development in northern Namibia, particularly in allowing the targeting of relevant interventions and support to specific farmer groups. It is likely that the practical approach to documenting and exploring the utility of local land-related knowledge systems used in this research has broad applicability in Africa and beyond.