Drought a national disaster – farmers

Farmers across the country are in dire need of assistance and need the drought declared a national disaster for international funding to be secured.

17 April 2019 | Disasters

The Namibia Agriculture Union (NAU) and the Namibia Emerging Commercial Farmers' Union (NECFU) have urgently requested agriculture minister Alpheus !Naruseb to declare the 2019 drought a national disaster.

According to the NAU, this is needed so international support can be sourced. Cabinet last month approved a N$572.7 million drought relief intervention, in a bid to assist drought-affected communities.

The NAU said according to independent reports, conditions on 92% of all rangelands in Namibia are below normal, while a staggering 64% of the country has 20% of its normal vegetation cover.

“It is further estimated that the water currently available in the Hardap Dam will not be able to sustain irrigation at current levels until the end of year,” the NAU said.

It said the pressure on current livestock marketing channels is immense, with plummeting auction prices due to an oversupply of especially lean animals.

A large portion of the dryland maize harvest has already been destroyed.

“Feedback has been received from the Office of the Prime Minister that they are busy with the prescribed process in order to enable President Hage Geingob to declare a national disaster,” said the NAU.

According to the rainfall bulletin for March, issued by the Meteorological Service Division in the works ministry, the month of March showed more depressed rainfall activity over most of the country.

“This puts the final nail into having a good rainy season,” the rainfall report said.

Eastern Erongo through to Otjizondjupa and Kavango West received over 40 millimetres of rain during March, which is far below the average rainfall for the period.

The Zambezi Region received very little to no rainfall during the month, escalating the seasonal rainfall deficit further.

On the other hand Karibib, Usakos, Otjimbingwe and Wilhelmstal received rainfall of up to 60 millimetres towards the end of the month.

Areas southwest of Otjiwarongo also received rainfall of close to 100 millimetres during March.

Last Monday, the country's dams held 30.1% of their capacity, according to a dam bulletin issued by NamWater.

Currently there are 210 716 million cubic metres of water left in all the country's dams, with the largest one, the Hardap Dam in Mariental, holding 71 827 million cubic metres last Monday.

Last year during this period, the dams were 41% full, holding 293 036 million cubic metres of water.

Dams in the central areas are 22.5% full, while last season they were 35.1% full.

Farmers have been forced to drastically reduce their herds, due to a shortage of grazing - an issue that is further compounded by water scarcity and the fact that water levels in boreholes in some areas are very low.

Meanwhile, the Dare to Care feed subsidy initiative started on 8 April at all participating retailers countrywide.

A total of 76 000 bags of feed can be subsidised with the available funds.

The NAU said the demand for the subsidised feed is overwhelming and at the end of the first week it was estimated that 50% of the available funds were used.

Dare to Care is still meeting with corporates to generate more funds. An initiative was also launched to obtain international funds from European farmer organisations and hunters. There will also be an action to collect funds on April 18 at the Okapuka roadblock, in cooperation with Woermann & Brock.

In June 2016, Geingob declared a state of emergency due to then ongoing drought in the country.

This was the second time in three years the government declared a state of emergency. In 2013, former president Hifikepunye Pohamba declared an emergency, while saying more than 4 000 animals had died and about 300 000 people were affected by the drought that year.

ELLANIE SMIT

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