WINDHOEK - Northern Namibia and the central highlands have received near-record lows in precipitation quantities for the last 90 days. Seasonally to date the rainfall also remains less than a quarter of normal.
With little increase in moisture during February, drought conditions have strengthened and are likely to continue in many regions. Ground impacts from extended dry spells and low totals are strongly reflected by poor values in vegetation health indices. On top of that, various weather forecasters have not predicted any worthy downpours for the closing days of February.
According to the Climate Prediction Centre’s Africa Hazards Outlook for February, much of southwestern Africa has not experienced any favourable increase in moisture, which has resulted in extremely poor percent of normal values over southern Angola, Namibia, western South Africa, and western Botswana. Many of these areas experiencing dryness over the past 30 days are also registering below-average precipitation since early November.
The bad news comes in the wake of the entire Namibian agricultural sector joining hands last week under the Dare to Care umbrella to launch a Drought Assistance Fund for drought stricken producers. At the same event, agricultural minister Alpheus !Naruseb announced that government is contemplating declaring a drought emmergency situation. Namibia is facing a national crisis in the agricultural sector due to the current drought conditions which started already in 2013. The rain pattern for Namibia’s northern and central areas are now reflected by negative 30 and 90-day anomalies. A pattern shift is expected for the upcoming outlook period with weather models showing monsoon convergence moving further south. This will bring increased rainfall to areas that have been unseasonably dry for the past few weeks. Many areas in southern Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, central/southern Mozambique, and eastern South Africa are forecast to receive weekly rain in excess of 50mm, with well more than 100mm possible. But in Namibia, dry conditions are expected to remain, extending dry spells in the country.
Piet Gouws, president of the Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO) told New Era meat prices are expected to remain stable but expressed concerns about very late rains in South Africa (SA) which will impact on fodder availability as Namibia imports all its fodder from SA. He says the situation could impact negatively on the weaner prices but he is not pessimistic about the meat industry in general.
For drought-stricken Namibian sheep farmers, it will be a make or break year. Government has promised to revise the current export scheme and the Meat Board of Namibia (MBN) has put various proposals on the table to either replace or improve sheep exports.
While Namibian crop farmers are looking forward to reasonable harvests after good rains in the Maize Triangle two weeks ago, Gouws says he is very worried about Namibia’s rangelands in general and the poor rains this season. “Our rangelands are very brittle after some five years of drought and rain will once again play a major role in the recovering of these rangelands,” he notes.
The Namibian Agricultural Union (NAU) stresses that it will actively get involved to change the agricultural policy so that growth is taking place at farm level and an important part hereof is the development of a joint vision between all role players as well as the establishment of the first ever Chamber of Agriculture at national level. In 2018, the primary agricultural sector contributed only 4.5 percent towards the total economy.
These figures underline the urgent need for the agricultural sector to grow and this growth can only be sustainable if it starts at farm level. Agriculture’s contribution can only grow if the amount of animals, tonnes of grain, litres of milk and all agricultural produce which are marketed, increase.
New Era Reporter
2019-02-26 10:00:09 4 months ago