Starvation looms

Farmers in the Kavango East will get no relief from their fields this year, saying they can only be used for fodder.

29 March 2019 | Agriculture

Due to the continuing lack of rainfall and crops being destroyed by the blazing sun, Kavango East subsistence farmers have given up any hope of harvesting this year, saying what is currently in their fields will be used as livestock feed.

In Ncaute village and the surrounding areas, Namibian Sun observed crops turning yellow as a result of heat exposure and no rain.

The farmers said even if good rains fall soon, it is unlikely that their crops will be revived.

Ncaute village headman Mukunga Kangora said the majority of subsistence farmers will starve this year, especially those who do not benefit from a monthly pension grant.

Speaking while seated under a tree, as he surveyed his sunburnt crops, Kangora said it will be a tough year, unless government intervenes.

“This year is going to be tough for all of us in Ncaute. Look at this field, the crops are dead,” Kangora said.

“Some of us are lucky; we receive a monthly pension grant, but what about those who do not get it. What will they eat? Our people do not have jobs, we only rely on our crop fields. However, looking at this year's drought situation, it's going to difficult to survive.”

Kangora said his biggest concern is how parents are going to feed their children before they go to school and when they return in the evenings.

Schools are situated about seven kilometres away.

“The children are innocent and that's why I am concerned about how they will survive if their parents are unable to harvest anything this year. The only way people will survive is if government provides people with drought relief food,” he said.

A Sapirama village farmer told Namibian Sun the crops in his field are currently only fit for livestock consumption.

“My crops have burnt, as you can see. I am poor already and without maize and mahangu it has worsened the situation. At least our livestock will eat these burnt crops,” the farmer said.

Namibian Sun also observed some good-looking crops in floodplain areas.

This Kangora explained by saying the soil in these areas is clay, which means water does not dry up easily after it rains.

He, however, said although the crops look green, the mahangu plant seeds have not germinated.

Cabinet recently announced a N$572.7 million drought relief package for 2019 to 2020.

The money is set to cover food assistance, water tankers, livestock management incentives, transport subsidies for farmers to and from grazing areas, as well as the transport of fodder to stricken areas.

Moreover, it will also cover the leasing of grazing areas on behalf of farmers, who are unable to pay, and subsidies for crop farmers.

New emergency relief interventions include a lick subsidy for stock herds and a fodder subsidy for core herds.

The plan was submitted by the agriculture ministry to cabinet.

KENYA KAMBOWE

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