Complaints about drought relief

Household food security is worsening in the northern crop-producing regions.

29 December 2016 | Disasters

People in northern Namibia who depend on drought-relief food from the government say it takes several months for the supplies to reach them, while others claim they have only received it once since the beginning of the year.

According to the Agricultural Inputs and Household Food Security Monitoring Assessment that has just been released by the agriculture ministry, food security continues to weaken. Many households have depleted the last season's poor harvest and are now dependent on the market and the drought relief programme.

The assessment was conducted in the seven northern communal crop-producing regions from 31 October to 25 November.

According to the report over 70% of the Namibian population derives a livelihood directly or indirectly from agriculture, which is mostly rain-fed agriculture.

For the past three seasons the country has experienced the worst drought in its history, the report says.

According to the report, last season's harvest, which was supplemented with market purchases, only lasted until August this year, leaving households completely dependent on the market and drought relief.

“In contrast, last season's drought was very severe when compared with the current season's drought, which showed a slight improvement in agricultural production. Generally, the problem facing the country continues to be lack of food reserves or carryover stock at household level, thereby exposing the majority of households to the vast impacts of food insecurity.”

According to the report households in the northern communal crop-producing regions say the food aid sometimes takes more than three months to reach them. Some households claim to have received food only once this year.

Households interviewed argued that drought relief was supposed to cover all households affected by drought, but was only provided to households considered to be in desperate need.

The government's drought-relief intervention assists more than 700 000 (about 32% of the population) people affected by the drought. The programme includes the provision of food, water, seed and the incentives for farmers to sell their livestock in order to relieve pressure on grazing.

Food assistance started in the 2012/2013 agricultural season and was recently extended to March next year. Food aid is distributed to the most vulnerable households. About 595 839 people continue to receive food assistance, according to the report.

The report says poor rainfall was observed at the beginning of the 2016/2017 rainy season (October to mid-November), and farmers did not start planting then.

By early December, however, the northern and north-eastern parts of the country had received moderate to good rains and planting could start.

Grazing continues to deteriorate in large parts of the country. However, with good showers received in December, the situation is reported to be improving in the north and north-east.

ELLANIE SMIT

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