Proper drought response critical

08 May 2019 | Columns

Government’s declaration of a severe drought, amid large parts of the country being ravaged, is long overdue.

President Hage Geingob must be commended for listening to the cries of both commercial and communal farmers. The intervention also comes at a critical time for government, as it seeks to mobilise a shortfall of N$137.8 million, in order to effectively implement drought relief efforts. Executive director in the agriculture ministry, Percy Misika, revealed recently that only N$304.9 million of the N$442.7 million needed for comprehensive interventions is currently available. The funds are mainly used for logistics and the transportation of food, water tankers, as well as the rehabilitation and installation of boreholes. The situation on the ground is depressing, as many farmers are unable to move their cattle to better grazing areas, because of their frail condition. Another critical factor, further stressing the situation, is the closure of strategic abattoirs, especially in northern Namibia in places like Eenhana, Rundu, Oshakati and Katima Mulilo. The Katima Mulilo abattoir was closed in 2014, along with the one at Oshakati, because of operational losses. This has effectively left farmers without a proper market, especially since they have been recording a dramatic rise in their livestock numbers. A lack of oversight and poor project management on the part of government is also compromising service delivery, especially at Rundu, where the authorities constructed a N$110 million abattoir, which was supposed to have been operational by 2017. Machinery and equipment are yet to be installed. While we appreciate the caring attitude of government, and the political will to tackle the severe drought, its sometimes lax approach remains a huge concern. Government, with its critical stakeholders, including farmers’ unions, agencies and offices, must always ensure that a proactive approach is taken. This entails the proper planning of the necessary measures to prevent or minimise drought impacts in advance, and ensuring they are implemented on time. We must get our priorities right, especially during a drought crisis.