WINDHOEK - The Climate Prediction Centre’s Africa Hazards Outlook report for January paints a disturbingly dry picture of Namibia for February. The report states that the season’s rainfall to date remains less than a quarter of normal, suggesting drought conditions are likely to strengthen for many regions in southern Africa.
This outlook does not auger well for Namibia that has been experiencing consecutive dry spells and devastating droughts since 2013 and with farmers and villagers currently grappling with accumulated livestock and fodder depletion; escalating fodder prices; rapid deterioration of rangelands and an increased supply of livestock in South Africa due to foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in South Africa, inhibiting exports from Namibia to that country.
A privately initiated drought aid programme was launched last week and this week Namibia’s leading farmers’ unions will inform the agricultural minister about the urgency to scramble to the aid of farmers countrywide. A national crisis looks unavoidable and farmers, especially in the southern parts of th country are on their knees.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU), Roelie Venter, last week called the situation a national crisis, saying that action plans will have to be implemented speedily to assist members in dire need. Hay and silage cannot be imported from SA duo to the outbreak of FMD there.
The Namibian Emerging Commercial Farmers’ Union (NECFU) and the NAU have unveiled an action plan, which will be presented to the Agriculture, Water and Forestry Ministry and the Meat Board of Namibia (MBN). Through the plan, the unions urgently request the ministry to remove all policies restricting the export of livestock in order to minimise financial and livestock losses.
The drought is bound to place huge financial responsibility on government in the election year and tough economic circumstances. In the drought of 2016/17, the government had to raise more than N$700 million for drought relief food.
In that period 729,134 people were exposed to food insecurity.
The large population of the Omusati Region is among those hit by the continuous dry spell and they have to trek, in some cases more than 30 kilometres, to get water for drinking and for domestic use. Crops planted last year are wilting in the baking sun and, in the absence of follow-up rains, prospects of an average mahangu and maize harvest is dwindling.
Livestock mostly affected are those found in areas in the north-central and east of the region, where grazing is badly depleted after continuous years of insufficient rainfall.
Agriculture in the country relies on both livestock and crop production both of which are prone to harsh climatic conditions such as drought and floods, including concomitant events such as pests and disease outbreaks. Consequently, drought conditions compromise livestock productivity, farm income, and farmers’ sustainable livelihoods. No drought conditions of different years are similar, and there is no standard recipe to cope with drought. Therefore, every year, a farmer should reassess his/her farm business in terms of finances, feeds, and ability to survive any drought