Bush encroachment can simply be defined as dominant increase in density of woody
plants species on a land area. These species can dominate in their native habitats or
invade other land areas displacing other plant species, resulting in loss of biodiversity and
an imbalanced vegetation type. There are different woody plant species that are regarded
as encroachers in Namibia. The common ones amongst many include; Senegalia
mellifera (Black thorn), Dichrostachys cinerea (Sickle bush) and Vachellia reficiens (False
umbrella thorn). The distribution of some of these species in the country is widespread,
whereas some are confined to certain areas. Further, these woody plants have different
valuable uses. Most of them are valuable as forage resources to livestock, and other
socio-economic uses, such as firewood, timber, and medicinal uses amongst others.
Bush encroachment in Namibia has significantly affected a larger area of land, estimated
at around 40 million hectares. Evidently, the grazing values of the affected areas are
reduced, their carrying capacities are reduced far beyond their abilities to sustain
livestock. On that, livestock productivity is compromised, and it has become more costly
to maintain livestock on such farming areas.
Controlling bush encroachment is a critical effort aimed at restoring these grazing areas
back to their natural potential of sustaining livestock. Bush control is an expensive
exercise that need careful planning. Beside bush being regarded a threat, is it also an
untapped opportunity with enormous collateral benefits to the farmer through the
production of wood, charcoal and bush feed amongst others.
Charcoal production is gaining momentum in Namibia, and for the purpose of
diversification it can be one of the secondary activities on the farm. If well planned, it will
contribute greatly to the cash flow of the farm. Any information regarding Bush control
and the utilization thereof can be obtained from institutions such as the Namibia Biomass
Industry Group (N-BIG) and the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism.
Bush encroachment and the recurrent drought in Namibia continue to negatively affect
forage availability in many grazing areas, and this is forcing farmers to spend a lot of
money on livestock feed supplementation. In order to lessen this burden, the bush can
be converted into animal feeds. Many farmers in the country embarked on bush feed
production during the previous drought and have successfully saved their herds. Bush
feed is a business opportunity for farmers to generate extra income and cover the
production costs. Some research work and feeding trials have been done in order to
establish the correct feed formulations and feed rations that are suitable for different
animal groups (cattle, sheep and goats) and feeding purposes (production or
maintenance feeding). This information is documented and freely available at N-BIG and
There is consistent demand for firewood in Namibia, especially in urban areas and
recreational facilities such as lodges for various reasons. These include, cost cutting by
reducing dependency on electricity, a main source of energy in informal settlements, and
recreational cooking (e.g. braai) amongst others. Thus, encroaching species can be used
as a source of energy at farm level and beyond.
Any farm at any given scale will have costs associated with the resource inputs and the
operations. These include machinery, transportation, and labour costs amongst others.
On that, bush control operations require careful financial planning and resource allocation
for efficiency and the desired outcome. Access to finance or credit has been one of the
hindering factors for many farmers, however, credit providers such as Agribank of
Namibia has created that opportunity for farmers to take up loans for purposes of bush
control and biomass utilization.
By: Erastus Ngaruka, Technical Advisor: Livestock &
Rangeland and Arnoldt //Gaseb, Mentor: Erongo & Kunene Regions.
Agribank’s Agri Advisory Services Division.