Farmers in 'terrible situation'

The UPM has taken note of the terrible situation farmers are experiencing across the country, as some have not received any rain for several years.

07 February 2019 | Agriculture

The United People's Movement (UPM) has expressed concern over the severe drought, saying that it should be declared a national disaster.

The vice-president of the UPM, Jan van Wyk, says the party has taken note of the terrible situation farmers are experiencing across the country, as some have not received any rain for several years.

“Some areas received little rain during the 2017/18 rainy season, which resulted in farmers losing huge numbers of livestock and game,” said Van Wyk.

According to him it is important that the government come on board to assist farmers in all areas, as some farmers are selling livestock as a matter of urgency and this could result in massive job losses in the agricultural sector.

“This trend will seriously affect revenue and national reserves. The UPM appreciates efforts from various stakeholders to come to the rescue of some farmers. However, national programmes through the government should come into operation as a matter of urgency.”

The UPM suggested that farmers should start destocking and only keep a small number of breeding stock with which to restart farming once the drought ends.

Van Wyk further said that the government should implement a programme to help farmers to restock as soon as their farms have recovered.

“The UPM, however, would like to request the government to concentrate on helping the farmers and not to start with a feeding programme in urban areas, referring to it as drought relief as was the case during 2016.”

The Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) and the Namibia Emerging Commercial Farmers' Union (NECFCU) have warned that the current drought is a “national crisis”.

The two unions drafted an emergency drought action plan, which was discussed with agriculture minister Alpheus !Naruseb this week.

They said the difference between the current drought and previous ones is that no part of Namibia has received good rains this season.

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 carry-over 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.

The unions said farmers should urgently reduce their livestock.

However, a recent weather outlook published by weather expert Johan van den Berg of Santam Agriculture in South Africa predicted a “sharp improvement of rainfall conditions for most of the summer rainfall areas for weeks to come”.

Van den Berg said the probability of rain in central and northern Namibia in February and March has improved notably from previous forecasts. The chances of rain in southern Namibia remain poor, though. The report, which was issued in late January, links the improved outlook to El Niño conditions which have weakened rapidly since the second part of December 2018 and are now in the neutral range or just outside the neutral range.

Van den Berg said February and March are historically the dominant rainfall months for the central and western parts of the country, and it seems there is a high probability of that occurring this year.

ELLANIE SMIT

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