WINDHOEK - With the persistent drought being felt mostly by farmers, National Council members of parliament have called on treasury to release drought relief funds earmarked to assist desperate farmers.
Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila this month announced a N$573 million drought package aimed at helping farmers and families currently gripped by severe drought.
The package was welcomed with open arms by almost all MPs – including from the opposition benches – when the PM made the announcement in the National Assembly.
However, even though MPs in the National Council welcomed the drought packages yesterday during session, they called on the Ministry of Finance to speed up the process of releasing the allocated funds towards drought relief.
“Treasury should release the allocated money so that it reaches the farmers on time. Time is running out. People don’t have money. We have to be very serious with the Ministry of Finance to release the funds on time. Let us assist the farmers on time,” urged National Council Swapo MP, Jeremia van Neel, who is also Gibeon constituency councillor in the Hardap Region.
Those affected would receive food assistance, water tanks and livestock marketing incentives.
Farmers will also be provided with transport subsidy to and from grazing areas, and transport for fodder to the drought-affected farmers especially in communal areas. Also, farmers will be receiving support for lease of grazing for the drought-affected animals and subsidy for crop farmers.
Likewise, farmers will receive lick supplements for a core herd of 25 cattle and one bull per farmer and fodder subsidy for a core herd of 25 cattle and one bull per farmer.
President Hage Geingob declared the current drought a national disaster.
Since 2013, most parts of Namibia recorded below normal rainfall, thereby leaving the grazing land exhausted and with little prospect of recovery.
This is the third time in six years that the government has declared a state of emergency.
In his declaration, Geingob said “following consultations with Cabinet and the wider government system, I declare under Article 26 of the Namibian Constitution that a State of Emergency exists on account of the natural disaster of drought in all regions of the Republic of Namibia.”
Geingob said all offices, ministries and agencies and all other stakeholders will be mobilised to ensure that the necessary assistance is rolled out to affected communities.
However, Swapo MP who is also the Okahandja constituency councillor, Steve Booys, said farmers are denied government subsidies, as this assistance is often delayed by administrators.
“Drought is also a serious challenge in our region. After this budget has been approved, the administrators are failing us in the execution of these processes. Currently, as we are busy debating the budget, they have not made provision. Trucks are not prepared as we are talking and houses to store fodder are also not in place. Our farmers are really denied the opportunity of getting these crucial services they should get,” he remarked.
He called on government to come up with an effective system to speed up the administrative pool of channelling offered subsidies.
Swapo MP and Oshikunde constituency councillor Lonia Kaishungu reported that Ohangwena Region from where she hails has no fodder available for farmers to feed their livestock.
She said farmers in that region normally travel long distances to the Kavango regions to buy fodder, which she described as an expensive exercise.
Nudo MP and Aminius constituency councillor Peter Kazongominja questioned why government is failing to monitor fish farms around the country where government pumped in millions of dollars, but which have turned into white elephants.
He said had these fish farms been monitored and effectively run, then people who are feeling the pinch of the prevailing drought could have been fed from these fish resources.
Further, he questioned why Namibian mines, which he says are largely in the hands of foreigners, do not contribute to state coffers in hard times such as these the country finds itself in.
“Mines are taking our minerals outside and they are not contributing to state coffers when we have financial problems. But you are saying MPs must contribute two percent of their income to the state while mine owners are taking millions out of the country without contributing any money into the Namibian economy,” he lashed out.
According to figures released by the Chamber of Mines, the local mining industry in 2018 paid N$1.707 billion in corporate taxes, N$2.063 billion in royalties and N$214.5 million in export levies.
As a measure to lead by example, in his fifth state of the nation address (Sona) in April, Geingob said during these trying economic times political office-bearers have agreed to a one-off, voluntary salary contribution of two percent of net, for this year.
An ordinary lawmaker in the National Assembly earns around N$693 000 per year, or N$57 750 per month, meaning that each MP will contribute roughly N$3 465 towards Geingob’s proposal.
Caption (Pic; drought):
Unrelenting… Drought continues to take a heavy toll on farmers in general but particularly on livestock.
2019-05-15 10:31:14 8 days ago