Farmers on the edge

Drought wreaks havoc

26 March 2019 | Disasters

The executive director of the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU), Mwilima Mushokavanji, says the drought situation is very serious and it is especially communal farmers that are affected.

He says agriculture is the livelihood of 70% of Namibians, most of whom live in rural areas.

Mushokavanji says the fact that there has been no rain directly affects agricultural productivity and food security.

“Due to the ongoing drought there has been a challenge with fodder and farmers have been unable to sustain their animals.” He says research shows that Africa will be the hardest hit by climate change, which will include prolonged droughts, floods and disease outbreaks. Therefore, mitigating strategies must be put in place.

In the short term, Mushokavanji says, the union has recommended to the government that food assistance and water tanks should be made available for people and livestock.

Also, a livestock management system should be implemented and the transport of fodder should be arranged. Furthermore, subsidies for crops and fodder should be implemented.

Mushokavanji emphasises that Namibia's early-warning system must be strengthened in order to prepare for drought well in advance.

“Meatco must also provide sustainable prices to farmers and Agribank must also take into account that farmers are going through difficult times and they will be struggling to repay loans and therefore they must take note of this.”

Mushokavanji says the public and private sectors need to work together during these hard times.

In the long term, infrastructure needs to be developed, because droughts occur regularly.

He says this includes investing in irrigation schemes to produce fodder.

Mushokavanji believes the development of feedlots is crucial. Research into drought-resistant agriculture is also important.

“We applaud the government for the drought relief that has been announced and urge that this will be implemented accurately and timely.”

He says although the union is happy about the drought relief, in the future foresight should be used to proactively plan for drought.

“From where we stand it is always better to see drought as a crisis and be proactively prepared. Moving forward, drought, floods and disease outbreaks should be seen as natural calamities that affect human lives and therefore the country should be prepared all the time.”

Meanwhile, the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) has welcomed last week's cabinet decision to approve more than N$572 million for drought relief during the 2019/20 financial year.

This will be for food assistance, water tankers, livestock management incentives, transport subsidies for livestock and fodder, lease of grazing areas, subsidies for crop farmers, and subsidies for lick supplements and fodder for livestock.

“The current drought is already a national crisis with disaster dimensions. International aid will be urgently needed to lessen the impact thereof,” said the union.

“It is of utmost importance that this crisis be declared as a national disaster in order to mobilise all role players and possible resources to jointly assist to lessen the impact,” the NAU said.

The NAU, together with the Namibia Emerging Commercial Farmers Union (NECFU), has requested a follow-up meeting with agriculture minister Alpheus !Naruseb to get more detail about the drought support and are preparing a submission to quantify the economic impact of the drought.

The Meat Board of Namibia has also said that the country is experiencing one of its worst droughts ever.

“Producers therefore have to plan as soon as possible to market their livestock from now up to the next rainy season.”

It recommends the immediate selling of non-productive and old female animals and the early weaning of calves and younger animals that will suffer during the winter season.

Feeding animals, especially cattle, is expensive, and producers should seek expert advice from feed companies, the Meat Board says.

ELLANIE SMIT