• August 8th, 2020

Prospects for rain dwindle as heat stress affect crops and livestock

WINDHOEK - The country faces  prolonged dry spells  disturbing the timing and spatial distribution of rainfall for almost all of Namibia despite an early onset of the 2018-19 rain season – which proved to be a false start.

Namibian livestock farmers have all their hopes pinned on at least normal rainfall in February as way below-normal January is drawing to a close. Experts agree that another dry spell could spell devastation for the already brittle rangelands in almost all of the country. Fodder is scarce and fears have risen about increased fodder prices from SA due to late rains and less maize planting.

 The South African weather guru, professor Peet Pienaar is optimistic that Namibia might receive meaningful showers as from this week and into February, but all forecasters agree that the last phase of the 2019 season is going to be bone dry.
Northern Namibia is the only area that can expect normal rainfall as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) forecast is likely to shift from neutral to the warm phase referred to as El Niño during the latter part of the season.

The expected rainfall for most of Sadc is forecast to be insufficient to meet the needs of the agricultural and power generation sectors. The associated agricultural risks include limited water availability, poor grazing areas and heat stress that could affect both crops and livestock. Many farmers are already experiencing these effects as rains stay away in rain-fed crop areas such as the Maize Triangle and Summerdown. Namibia is set to register its highest production of white maize, wheat and mahangu in eight years with a total of 76 660 tonnes of the staple diet of most Namibians coming from home soils this season.

The 76 660 tonnes of white maize represent 60 percent of the total local domestic demand of 127 143 tonnes, meaning Namibia will have to import 50 483 tonnes of white maize (40 percent of domestic demand this year).

Based on the 10 Sadc member states that provided cereal balance sheets for the 2018/19 marketing year, the region is estimated to have a cereal surplus of 6.3 million metric tonnes compared to 7.5 million tonnes for the same countries in the previous marketing year.

The countries that submitted their national vulnerability assessment reports are Namibia, Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The region has in the past adopted measures to mitigate the impacts of poor harvests on food security.
Faced with an El Niño-induced drought during the 2015/16 season, which was described as the worst in 35 years, Sadc established an El-Niño response team to coordinate the regional response to the impacts of the poor harvest.
The Sadc El Niño Response Team was set up in May 2016 in response to a directive issued by the Sadc Council of Ministers that met in March of the same year.

The team prepared a regional drought appeal for assistance with the aim of mobilizing resources to meet the needs of people requiring humanitarian support in the region.

In addition to this, Sadc has adopted a number of others measures to revolutionize the agricultural sector, which contributes between four and 27 percent of the regional gross domestic product, and about 13 percent of the total export earnings.

The measures include promotion of investment in research and improved access to financial resources for smallholder farmers.

Other strategies are measures to strengthen the capacity for the dissemination of research technologies to farmers, particularly smallholder farmers, who make up the majority of farmers in the region.

Based on the outlook, farmers are urged to commit portions of their cropland to medium to late maturing and high-yielding crop varieties and also stagger their planting dates.

The depletion of household food stocks, below-average incomes, and increase in market prices will likely lead to an increase in the number of households experiencing food insecurity in 2019. 
Small-scale farmers in the Northern Communal Area are reporting anomalously high daytime temperatures negatively impacting cropping conditions.

Staff Reporter
2019-01-15 10:26:12 | 1 years ago

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