Cause for concern

Grazing looks dismal and crops were either abandoned or planted late.

20 February 2019 | Agriculture

Regions in northern Namibia were faced with a delay in the start of the rainfall season which impacted on agricultural activities and has also contributed to poor grazing and livestock conditions in some areas.

The Omusati Region noted a significant delay in the onset of the 2018/19 rainfall season which subsequently resulted in delayed cultivations. Despite some showers received at the end of October to early November, a total lack of follow-up rains has delayed these agricultural activities. It was noted that the bulk first half of the 2018/19 rainfall season was dry as productive rainfall was only realised at end of December to early January.

This is according to the Agricultural Inputs and Household Food Security Monitoring Assessment that was conducted in the seven northern communal major crop-producing regions. The assessment that was released by the agriculture ministry was done from 18 November to 18 December last year.

At the time of the assessment, the Omusati Region was still dry and many farmers were seen clearing their crop fields for cultivation.

It was reported that the region was still waiting for seed and fertiliser consignments, which are expected to be less than that of last season because of a limited budget allocation this season. “Nevertheless, the majority of the farmers were reported to have retained sufficient good quality seeds, following a good crop harvest obtained last season. However, due to the prevailing poor rainfall patterns, farmers indicated that they would need improved seeds which can produce reasonably under poor rainfall conditions,” according to the report.

The region also indicated that it had carryover stock of cowpeas from last season, which are reportedly in less demand due to low quality and high prices.

The region has about 20 government tractors that are in good working condition for ploughing, ripping, and planting services.

It was noted that the region received nine new tractors this season to add to its existing fleet, however four tractors have been reported to have mechanical faults since last season.

Moreover, registrations of farmers, drought animal service providers and private tractor owners to partake in the government agricultural subsidy services were ongoing at the time of the assessment.

According to the report poor grazing conditions were reported in most parts of the region except in the cattle post areas where grazing was said to be in fair to good condition.

“Livestock body condition was reported to range between poor and fair in most areas, but good in the cattle post areas. Some livestock in the poor grazing areas are said to be in a poor condition with some unable to stand up on their own due to malnutrition,” says the report.

The situation is reportedly being exacerbated by delayed rainfall and many farmers have since started to supplement their livestock feeding with crop stalks in order to better the situation.

Household food security was also noted to be good as most households could still rely on last season's harvest for food access. According to household owners, their harvest is sufficient and is expected to sustain them to the next harvest in May this year.

In the Ohangwena Region, the rainfall season was severely delayed, despite the early good showers.

The region is reported to have received its first rain for the 2018/19 rainfall season at the end of October to early November. However, there were no follow-up rains to back-up the onset of the rainfall season.

At the time of the assessment, the region indicated its readiness to kick-start the season in terms of subsidy services.

However, it was reported that, only top dressing fertilisers were available from last season and there were no basal dressing fertilisers in stock, while the region was still waiting for fertiliser stock to arrive.

The region is reported to have received improved pearl millet seed under the subsidy programme. The report says that Ohangwena agricultural extension officials indicated that the region received about 16 tons of pearl millet from the Northern Namibia Seed Growers Cooperative, which is about 20% less than last season's allocation.

According to the report the majority of farmers were able to retain sufficient pearl millet seed, following a good harvest last season.

With regard to ploughing services, the region reported that most government tractors were already dispatched for ploughing, ripping or planting services, except the few that are yet to be serviced or repaired. Registrations of farmers to participate in government inputs and ploughing, planting and weeding services were ongoing.

Furthermore no grazing has been depleted, especially in the west of the region, but is much better in the east due to shrubs and bushes sprouting new leaves.

With regard to household food security, the situation was noted to be satisfactory, as most households are reported to still be dependent on last season's harvest for food access. According to households, their harvest is enough and is expected to sustain them until the next harvest in May 2019.





ELLANIE SMIT

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