Rangeland Restoration through Bush Control

© Otjiwa Lodge, Namibia
Published: 12 June 2017
Last edited: 19 March 2019
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Bush encroachment is a main consequence of land degradation in Namibia. On degraded rangeland with an overgrazed grass layer, indigenous bush species are advantaged and grow excessively, at the expense of grasses. As a result, biodiversity decreases, groundwater recharge is limited and agricultural productivity declines.


Besides overgrazing, climate change is a driver of bush encroachment. Elevated CO2 has been found to accelerate the growth of bush species.


The national Bush Control and Biomass Utilisation programme aims to restore degraded rangeland by targeted bush thinning. It is a crucial contribution to the adaptation to climate change in Namibia.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Grassland ecosystems
Temperate grassland, savanna, shrubland
Forest Management
Invasive alien species
Land management
Outreach & communications
Renewable energies
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Invasive species
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of technical capacity
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 7 – Affordable and clean energy
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 9: Invasive alien species prevented and controlled
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge


Otjiwarongo, Otjozondjupa Region, Namibia | Otjozondjupa, Kunene, Oshikoto, Kavango East, Kavango West, Omaheke


Environmental challenges

Bush encroachment, i.e. the excessive thickening of bush at the expense of grass on Namibian land, negatively impacts biodiversity and hampers groundwater recharge. It is a major cause for land degradation and accelerates the impacts of climate change.


Economic challenges

Bush encroached land bears a significantly lower agricultural productivity. The icome of farmers that predominantly depend on livestock or game farming diminishes. Agricultural productivity in Namibia has decreased by 2/3 over the past decades.


  • Land owners on communal and commercial land, i.e. commercial and export oriented farmers, emerging commercial farmers as well as subsistance farmers
  • SMEs offering bush control services
  • Workers, both unskilled labour and machine operators

How do the building blocks interact?

The building blocks constitute implementation steps of bush control and biomass utilisation. They are applicable to all bush control operations, although they must be prioritised and implemented according to the respective context conditions.


 Environmental impact

  • Increased biodiversity: the thinning of the bush density allows the grass layer to recover
  • Improved groundwater recharge: through the thinning of the bush density evapotranspiration is reduced and a significantly increased amount of water can enter the groundwater

Agricultural activity in Namibia is dominated by cattle herding. Water and grass are the most important agricultural input goods, but these resources are increasingly constraint by the effects of climate change (e.g. long periods of drought). The restoration of these resources forms part of climate change adaptation.


Social impact

  • Employment creation with a particular focus on women, e.g. in biomass handling and packaging

Economic impact

  • Employment creation in bush harvesting and biomass processing
  • Diversification of income for farmers, e.g. through charcoal production
  • Substitution of imported goods, e.g. bush based animal feed as a substitute for imported lucerne
  • Diversified energy mix on a national level through the introduction of biomass power plants
  • Increased drought resilience through increased rangeland productivity and on-farm-solutions, such as bush based animal feed production

Biomass utilisation leads to an increased diversity of income for farmers, which in turn decreases their dependency on livestock or crop farming. This helps farmers to adapt to the effects of climate change.


GIZ Support to De-bushing Project, Johannes Laufs

A number of Namibian farmers are producing bushfeed, which refers to the practice of mixing milled encroacher bush with additives.


Bush feed combines the benefits of contributing to bush control (through selective bush harvesting) and increase availability of animal fodder.


Mr Hermann Bayer is the earliest bushfeed producer in Namibia. He started producing bushfeed in 1972.


During regular hunting trips by horse, he realised that every time it got harder to ride through the encroaching bush.

Although there was little awareness of bush encroachment at that time, he instinctively thought of harvesting and utilising the bush.


He decided to buy a bulldozer and soon developed the idea of using bush for animal feed.


Today Hermann Bayer believes that tackling the encroachment problem in its early stages has saved his farm.

Contributed by

Johannes Laufs Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

Other contributors

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
De-bushing Advisory Service (DAS) Namibia