How to use this Decision Support System

If you have fenced camps, we suggest that you use this system once for each camp or group of similar camps, during the three seasons in Question 1. If you do not have fenced camps, or if individual large camps are too variable, then we suggest you map your grazing area into relatively homogenous areas (RHAs) and then use the booklet for each of these areas. Figure below provides a bird’s eye view of a hypothetical scenario of how different decisions could be taken in different camps, also taking into account (e.g. using burnt areas as fire breaks, not burning the whole farm in one year). Before taking action (if action is required), take into account the realities on your farm. It might be that some decisions are not possible (e.g. rest camp for whole season) owing to grazing and drought pressures. It will then be important to prioritise camps and actions. This will hopefully be developed at a later stage.

In Figure 7, the scenario is in the hot, dry season, after a very good rainy season with survived seedlings abundant close to the bush encroached area. Some areas have seedlings and a high fuel load (Decision 3). Some of these decisions are deferred, because one cannot burn the whole farm. Decision 4 is taken in a relatively small area with little perennial grass cover but many seedlings. In the encroached area, the decision to leave the bushes (Decision 6) might be for various reasons, including using the encroached area (low grass fuel) as a natural fire break between areas where fire was decided upon. Decision 12 (Using a roller to flatten bushes) was made to enhance the mulch and promote the grass cover, and perhaps reseeding could occur. In other areas there are no seedlings and so Decision 2 (carry on as usual) is reached. Finally, large mature bushes are targeted for cutting with a horizontal saw and using for charcoal (Decision 10) but this is followed by placing strips of fine material along contours and reseeding (Decision 14). In total, seven decisions are made for the area represented.

We originally included a third section called “ongoing good management decisions” which referred to decisions that, if followed, along with the Adaptive management decisions, should drastically minimise the chances of bush encroachment events occurring again on the rangeland you manage. We recognise that “ongoing good management” is a vast topic to be included in this booklet, and there are a great number of opinions on what constitutes “good management”.

Most successful farmers agree that good grazing management is essential to maintain grass vigour, and that long rest for grass plants to regain vigour after grazing is the most essential ingredient to achieve that, preferably for a whole growing season every second year. There is some disagreement on the period of grazing, but this seems to be less controversial as there are farmers who achieve success with both long and short grazing periods, provided they provide long rest. Two examples of good grazing management being successfully applied in Namibia are based upon holistic management originally developed by Alan Savory and the fodder-flow grazing strategy developed by Riaan Dames. All grazing management strategies that allow a full growing season’s rest every second season are likely to be very successful, and, when combined with our adaptive management decisions, should not allow any encroachment to occur.