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Livestock and game farmers suffered substantial losses in 2023

Reflecting on the agricultural landscape of 2023, the numbers speak volumes about the challenges faced by livestock farmers. A comprehensive analysis from the Livestock Producers’ Organisation (LPO) reveals a staggering loss of N$14 399 440 due to predation, theft, drought-related illness and disasters as well as damage to property caused by problem animals.

This astronomical amount stems from only 1 248 reports from LPO members. This represents a fraction of the total livestock sector. Farmers feel discouraged that nothing is being done about their situation and therefore the number of reports received is very low. Effort must be made going forward to motivate farmers to participate in these statistics to get a more representative figure.

Predation emerges as a prominent factor in livestock losses, accounting for N$5 641 729.60. Cattle, sheep, goats, game and a few other farm animals have all fallen victim to predators, with 552 reported incidents leading to the loss of 5 686 animals. For livestock farmers, the toll of predator attacks goes beyond the financial burden. It translates into sleepless nights, heightened vigilance, and the emotional burden of witnessing the fruits of their labour fall prey to the wild. We must recognize the toll this takes on the mental health and well-being of farmers, who bear the weight of these losses.

Encounters with elephants and other problem animals such as warthogs, baboons and porcupines underline the challenges of coexistence between agriculture and wildlife. There were 44 reports of conflict with the above wildlife resulting in property damage of N$678 700, emphasizing the need for sustainable approaches to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts.

The silent culprit in the narrative of losses is undoubtedly the prolonged drought, accounting for N$4 809 300 (380 reports) in livestock and game losses due to illness and disasters.

Theft and poaching remain persistent issues, resulting in N$3 253 711 in losses. Cattle, sheep, game, and other assets, including solar equipment, have all been targeted. With 270 reported incidents, this aspect demands a coordinated effort between law-enforcement agencies, communities and farmers to curb such illicit activities.

The statistics for 2023 paint a challenging picture for livestock and game farmers, as they grapple with the complex interplay of predation, wildlife conflicts, drought, and theft. Addressing these issues requires a multifaceted approach that combines effective predator management, sustainable wildlife conservation strategies, and adaptation measures to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Collaboration and innovation will be crucial in building resilience within the agricultural sector and ensuring the long-term sustainability of livestock and game farming in the face of these formidable challenges.

This article was originally published in the NAU newsletter, 23 February 2024

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