OKAKARARA – Communal farmers, especially those from drought-stricken areas, have expressed renewed concerns with the delayed distribution of drought-relief food and related incentives to struggling farmers.
Government, through the Disaster Risk Fund under the Office of the Prime Minister, was expected to start with the roll-out of drought relief food and monetary incentives to farmers by 1 July, but nothing substantive has happened in that regard.
Farmers have been knocking on the doors of their regional farmers’ associations and regional councillors in search of help and clarity on what has caused the delay, and when the expected distribution will start.
In June, government announced that farmers in the Omaheke, Kunene, Omusati, /Kharas, Hardap and parts of the Erongo regions would be amongst those to benefit from the government’s livestock support programme. This was to see farmers receiving livestock marketing incentives, transport subsidies to and from grazing areas, as well as subsidies for leasing grazing areas.
The livestock support and drought relief programme was planned to support hard-hit farmers in those localities from 1 July 2023 until 31 March 2024, but the distribution of food and fodder to farmers has not yet started.
In her recent visit to the Erongo region, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila revealed that the delay in rolling out drought relief food and various incentives to farmers across the country was caused by a N$600 million budget shortfall.
She said while briefing the Erongo regional leadership that the Disaster Risk Fund currently only has about N$200 million in its kitty, which represents a deficit of N$600 million to achieve the planned full roll-out of N$800 million in order to reach all farmers.
“We need about N$800 million to successfully implement the drought relief programme. As we speak, we have around N$200 million in the account of the Disaster Risk Fund. So, that means we need an additional N$600 million to implement the programme and reach all affected farmers. We are now looking at the mid-term review budget and at next year’s budget to see if additional funds can be obtained to reach the targets of the drought relief programme,” shared the Prime Minister.
She, however, added that government through her office has been working around the clock to ensure that farmers in almost all the abovementioned regions will at least start receiving some assistance from next month.
The long-term strategy of government’s livestock support programme is to improve the performance of the livestock value chain within the mainstream supply channels, as well as to help farmers develop resilience against growing problems of climate change.
New Era spoke to a few farmers at the just-ended Okakarara Annual Trade Fair, who all expressed their frustration with the delayed distribution of drought relief assistance, saying their reserves have run dry and their animals are dying in the hundreds each day.
Ellision Kahipuire, a 34-year-old farmer from Otjombinde who came to showcase his Damara sheep at the trade fair, said they have been waiting for months and months, but have still not received any help from the government through their constituency office.
“I think it was about two months ago when farmers in my area were informed about the kind of assistance we will be getting from our government. But we are in September now, and nothing has reached us. It has not been easy, especially for those of us surviving solely from farming, as we are forced to de-stock by selling our livestock at ridiculously low prices. These ones [sheep] that you are seeing here look good because I have been feeding them from my own pocket for months now, with the hope that I might get some buyers at this trade fair, and make small money to go feed the others I left at home. It is not easy for us,” he lamented.
Another farmer from the Omaheke region, Ingrid Tjihenuna from the Aminuis constituency, likewise shared that the waiting has been very exasperating as there is no concrete communication from the constituency office as to when the assistance will come.
“The last time we heard that a certain committee from the prime minister’s office would visit the region and assess the situation before coming back to distribute food and other assistance, but nothing has happened to date. In fact, I’m only hearing now from you that there is a N$600 million shortfall in the bigger drought relief budget because our constituency office has not communicated anything, or even our regional governor. We have just waited for too long, and the animals are dying in front of us as we are also helpless,” she added.
Tjihenuna was accompanied by her 15-year-old son Usuta to the fair, where they came to showcase their Boer goats and traditional homemade calabashes.