Drought leaves Namibians desperate

Subsistence farmers stranded without hope

15 May 2019 | Economics

Now the cattle feed on tree leaves which is not sustainable. - Charles Likezo, Headman: Silonga village

Ndalimpinga Iita - When there is a prolonged dry spell, the sea of withered amber crops becomes a common sight in the northern part of Namibia.

Every day before the sun was up, Liina Mupopya from Oshana region in northern Namibia came to observe her pearl millet field. However, the sight of withered crops disheartened her.

"The rain is delayed and some crops become withered. Some have not even germinated," said Mupopya.

Namibia had been experiencing droughts since 2013, affecting about 60% of the households dependent on crop farming and agriculture.

The current dry spell is particularly severe.

According to the ministry of agriculture, water and forestry, the 2018/19 rainfall season was fraught with unprecedented rainfall patterns, with crop-producing regions expecting a poor and below average crop production.

The ministry said recently that Namibia could expect a reduction in harvest of at least 53% from last season's harvest.

For Mupopya, the dilemma was how to sustain her household.

"[I would expect] no yields to harvest this year. I have a big family, mainly counting on the farm production for sustenance and income. How can I cover other expenditures like medical expenses?" she asked.

Regions

The challenges facing Mupopya were prevalent in other regions across the country.

In the northeast part of Zambezi region, Charles Likezo, headman of Silonga village, said the area had barely received any rain during the current season, leading to a massive reduction in yields and investment made towards farming.

"We spent much money at the start of the farming season on labour and other efforts," he said.

According to him, villagers spent an average of N$350 ploughing fields and gave a further N$200 each to people who helped with weeding the fields.

"This was very costly because a farmer ploughs an average of three to six hectares of land, and in addition hires more than five people to help with the weeding, but all in vain," said Likezo.

Livestock production, which is dependent on the crop production, was also affected.

"Our livestock will die because of lack of grazing," said Likezo. "Now the cattle feed on tree leaves which is not sustainable."

Strategy

Mwilima Mushokobanji, executive director of Namibia National Farmers Union, said the country's persistent drought patterns had affected the production capacity of the agricultural sector and the socio-economic standing of the farmers.

President Hage Geingob recently declared a state of emergency. The government announced a package of about N$573 million for drought relief.

Mushokobanji welcomed the government's decision to provide drought relief and fodder for livestock farmers.

But to solve the drought issue in the long term, he urged key stakeholders to come up with a feasible disaster risk management strategy, which will enable farmers to withstand the effects of adverse climate change. – Nampa/Xinhua