17 April 1998

WHERE 10,000 ACRES

IS SMALL

FARMING in Namibia is divided north and south by a veterinary fence which prevents the spread of foot-and-mouth and lung disease. With 88% of agricultural land used for livestock production, disease is a constant threat to the countrys rural economy.

Agriculture in the far north consists almost entirely of subsistence farming. To the south of the fence, meanwhile, lie commercial farms averaging 8000ha (20,000 acres) in size, with a stocking rate of one cow every 12-15ha (30-37 acres).

Fields are 200-300ha (500-750 acres) in size, each only viable if it has access to a constant water supply. Farmers even calculate the biomass of grass that each field contains to decide the liveweight of livestock it will support during the year. Farm labour rates are typically £2.50/day an employee including free meat, housing and electric lighting.

Hans Breitings 30,000 ha farm is typical of those in this part of Namibia. Water is at a premium. Between 1990 and 1997 annual rainfall only exceeded 100mm (4in) twice.

Namibia is three times the

size of Britain but its

population is just 1.6m.

Rain falls only between

January and April and the

scant moisture is the

main influence on farming.

Howard Brundrett spoke

to six farmers who have

proved they can cope with

the harsh conditions