Declare drought an emergency

12 March 2019 | Columns

It is common knowledge that many of our drought-stricken farmers find themselves in dire straits, due to a prolonged dry-spell, coupled with sparse rainfall and extreme heat conditions.

The drought, which is caused by the so-called El Niño weather effect, has already led to livestock deaths in various parts of the country.

Some areas, especially in northern Namibia where subsistence farmers are more and more dependent on rainwater, are also bracing themselves for extremely poor harvests this season. The situation is no different south of the veterinary cordon fence, where commercial farmers have already asked government for urgent help.

Early last month, Namibian Sun reported that the Namibia Agricultural Union and the Namibia Emerging Commercial Farmer's Union had compiled a drought action plan.

They subsequently received an audience with line minister Alpheus !Naruseb, during which he was briefed about the severity of the current drought. He was also provided with an initial proposal to mitigate its impacts. According to the unions, Namibia has experienced below-normal rainfall for five of the seven years since 2013. This has depleted the growth reserves of rangelands, as well as carryover fodder on the veld. Also, the foot-and-mouth outbreak in South Africa has resulted in producer prices of sheep and weaners dropping by about 30%, in comparison to December 2018. Therefore the time is indeed ripe and government must urgently step in and declare a state of emergency as far drought is concerned, considering the fact that devastating impacts are already being felt countrywide. Our people are reeling under acute drought and the authorities should adopt a proactive attitude and heed the call of struggling farmers, in order to mitigate the impacts caused by the dry-spell. It is also important that government pronounces itself on this urgent matter by highlighting the drought relief strategies that it has put in place so far.

We cannot afford to procrastinate on this issue. Urgent steps need to happen sooner rather than later.

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