Farmers take massive hit
The full impact of the ongoing drought on local farming is slowly starting to emerge, and the situation is grim, with the farmers themselves now food insecure.
04 September 2019 | Agriculture
“Household food security has weakened significantly, following very poor agricultural production, due to severe drought conditions experienced in the season. Consequently, many households will be faced with food insecurity during June 2019 to March 2020, as the majority of crop farmers recorded crop failures, which has consequently limited their capacity to restock their food reserves,” the report says. The report says that people's livelihoods, especially in the rural areas, are severely affected by the ongoing drought, which did not only affect people's access to safe and nutritious food, but also crippled the ability of the agricultural sector to contribute to the country's gross domestic product (GDP). According to the Namibian Vulnerability Assessment Committee report for 2019, over 289 644 people are food insecure and need immediate food assistance. This number is expected to rise during the course of the 2019/20 consumption period. The total cereal production for the 2018/19 season consists of 43 600 tons of white maize, 9 300 tons of pearl millet, 400 tons of sorghum and 6 000 tons of wheat. Maize production in the communal areas (Zambezi, Kavango East and Kavango West) decreased by 81%, from 6 900 tons in 2017/18 to 1 300 tons in 2018/19. It was 80% below the average production of 6 600 tons. In the commercial area, there was a decrease of about 19% in maize production when compared to the 2017/18 harvest, which was 52 400 tons. However, this was still at the average production level of 42 400 tons. Pearl millet production showed a significant decline of 89% from 83 500 tons in during 2017/18 season to 9 300 tons in 2018/19, which was 84% below the average production of 57 500 tons.
Sorghum production also showed a major decrease of 90% from the 4 000 tons harvested in 2017/18. This is about 95% below the average production of 7 100 tons. At the time the report was being compiled, the total planted area for cereal coarse grain was estimated at 180 100 hectares, reflecting a reduction of 41% compared to the 2017/18 season, and 46% below the average planted area.
“The reduction is attributed to the severe and unprecedented drought conditions experienced this season. Many crop farmers are reported to have given up on cultivation earlier in the season, owing to extremely poor rainfall conditions and prolonged dry spells, which are said to have dominated the season,” the report said. The 23rd Southern African Regional Climate Forum (SARCOF-23) said last Friday that normal rainfall is expected in southern Africa in the coming months of October, November and December.
For the months of January, February and March next year, there will be normal and above-normal rainfall, except in the west of Angola and Namibia, southern South Africa, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and Madagascar, which will have normal rainfall, with a below-normal trend.