OPUWO – A crippling drought currently ravaging vast tracts of Kunene has seen desperate farmers trekking nearly 200km to Opuwo to save their surviving herds.
Families have flocked to the outskirts of the regional hub in search of survival for themselves and their livestock during a severe drought in their native remote areas throughout the region after their herds started dying of hunger. Their migration was met with various challenges as some of their goats died on the way while hundreds continue to die where they have now settled.
The families said that they heard that Opuwo had received a bit of rainfall and as such was better off than their native areas where not even a single drop of rain fell. Carcasses of the dying animals can be spotted along the road.
Equally saddening are the depleting pastures along the road.
The farmers said they now feed their goats water leaking from an overflowing NamWater dam.
On a sunny Wednesday, mothers and children were seen seeking shelter under the nearby trees while some endured the scorching hot sun in their new makeshift homes.
Some of the children had gone up the mountains to graze the remaining livestock.
Their parents on the other hand reached out to see who was visiting, with many hoping that help, especially food, had come their way.
Some had prepared their staple food oruhere (porridge) for their children. The maize meal was donated to them by government officials after learning of their plight. These farmers were also provided with a water tank by government.
Tjaueza Tjiningira, a mother of five and who is expecting her sixth, lamented that she had also started to fear for her children’s survival as there would be nothing for them to eat. It is a matter of survival of the fittest for her family.
“This is the worst drought we are facing – we thought last year was worse when we lost our cattle, but it is even more sad now that our goats are also dying,” said Tjiningira.
Tjiningira and her family hail from Okondjombo. Narrating her story about back home, Tjiningira said the whole village has relocated with the exception of three pensioners and one person living with a disability.
Before settling outside Opuwo, Tjiningira said they first settled at Onganga but the situation worsened fast and they were again forced to move to where they are now. “But the situation is no different here anymore. We were hoping that our lives will change but it keeps getting worse,” said Tjiningira.
Tjiningira, whose family had more than 200 goats last year, were at the beginning of this year only left with 4o. Most of these animals have now also perished due to hunger.
Narrating their plight, Uahindua Muheruka said they were forced to migrate as life became unbearable back home.
“We struggled to even buy maize meal as a bag cost N$600 back home. We had to move where it is cheaper so that we can survive,” said Muheruka.
Muheruka said they are able to buy maize meal after selling their goats, but with the prolonged drought, the goats are no longer market ready.
According to her, citizens who come to purchase goats from Opuwo are taking advantage of their situation, including buying their goats for even a lowly N$20.
“Sometimes we sell for just N$20, but the same person will go sell the goat for a much more expensive price in town,” said Muheruka.
While some initially deemed their migration to be temporary, many have decided not to return home as there is nothing more for them anymore back home than hunger.
Some of the men in the family who had initially migrated with them have returned home after the grazing also depleted while some have moved with the livestock elsewhere again.
Approached for comment, Opuwo Urban constituency councillor Ueutjerevi Ngunaihe told New Era the farmers who flocked outside Opuwo have been provided with a water tank from the rural water supply department through the constituency office as well as food from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
Ngunaihe said the region is planning to visit the OPM to pave the way for discussions for urgent intervention to provide food. “Drought assessment must be done urgently. These people need food urgently,” said Ngunaihe