Namibia still at high risk of famine

Even an exceptional rainy season would only banish the spectre of famine after the next harvest, a global report on food security warns.

09 November 2016 | Disasters

Although some parts of Namibia have experienced good rains over the last few days, the country has been rated as being at high risk of food insecurity due to the prolonged drought and this crisis is expected to extend until at least March 2017.

The rating was issued by the Global Early Warning and Early Action Report on Food Security and Agriculture and covers the period October to December.

The report is developed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and aims to translate forecasts and early warnings into anticipatory action.

According to the report, humanitarian consequences of drought are severe in Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. The situation is also severely stressed in Namibia and Botswana, it says.

“The crisis is expected to peak in the January to March 2017 period towards the end of the lean season,” it warns.

It further warns that there is a risk of further deterioration of food security in areas with limited food access and availability, and a protraction of the crisis into 2017/18, if livelihood recovery does not occur during the current planting

season.

Meanwhile an update about the regional situation also warns that the negative impacts of the worst drought in 35 years, which has caused a humanitarian crisis affecting 39 million people or 13% of the SADC population, continue to intensify.

It says several factors including depleted food reserves, rising food prices, lower commodity prices and slowing economic growth are exacerbating the situation.

According to the update, staple food prices are rising due to the generally poor crop production over the past two years. The regional cereal deficit currently stands at close to 7.4 metric tons and is 11% below the five-year average, dropping from 29 million tons in 2015 to 26 million tons this year.

The drought has also led to scarcity of water for human and animal consumption.

Over 600 000 head of livestock and some wildlife have been lost. In addition, water levels in major dams in the region have declined significantly, thereby affecting hydroelectric power generation, the update says.

It further states that about 74% of the U$2.9 billion required for the SADC Regional Humanitarian Appeal is yet to be raised. Only U$757 million has been raised by governments and partners.

According to the update Namibia still requires about 63% of its U$56.6 million appeal. Only U$20.8 million has been raised in support of the 595 983 people who require immediate assistance.

The early warning report recommends that initiatives need to be considered to support the current planting season. This should include provision of seed, in particular maize, fertiliser and other agricultural inputs.

The livestock sector also needs support. It is recommended that provision should be made for supplementary feed and water for livestock.

Veterinary support is necessary for weakened livestock to prevent further losses.

Support is needed for horticulture through the provision of seeds, small-scale water harvesting and drought-resilient gardening technologies. Food access should be improved to avoid further losses of assets until the end of the lean season.

The report warns that the consequences of a La Niña weather pattern on agriculture and food security can be both positive and negative.

The positive effects derive from the increased likelihood of above-average rainfall which could improve pasture and crop yields.

At the same time, it raises the risk of flooding and crop and livestock losses.

“Since La Niña would most likely impact regions that have already been affected by El Niño, the food security situation could further deteriorate and protract into 2018.”

In the event of a “positive” La Niña, it is important to highlight that the actual full effect of above-average rainfall will not be felt until the next harvest.

ELLANIE SMIT

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