Government considering drought emergency declaration

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WINDHOEK - Agriculture, Water and Forestry Minister Alpheus !Naruseb said government is considering declaring a drought state of emergency towards end of April.

Namibia has been experiencing a persistently stubborn drought for the past six years, which has killed an unspecified number of livestock across the country, estimated to be worth millions of dollars. 
If declared, the drought emergency will be the third announced in six years.

“We are duty bound to prepare a current situation analysis reflecting the expected rain pattern - that usually happens between now and April. Now the pronouncement from the government side whether we shall be declaring this current rainy season (2019/20) as a disaster will be informed by the data that we are gathering,” !Naruseb told farmers here yesterday.

He said while farmers are waiting for the government pronouncement, they should not stop embarking on activities such as the “Dare to Care” initiatives that anticipate pro-activeness from the farmers to deal with the likelihood they expect to be the reality.

!Naruseb was speaking during a media conference initiated by Namibia Emerging Commercial Farmers Union (NECFU), Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) and the private sector, themed “Agriculture against Disaster”, in Windhoek yesterday. NECFU, NAU and the private sector in the country decided to join hands under the “Dare to Care” umbrella to make a contribution to all drought stricken farmers to survive the drought.  

The farmers have set themselves an ambitious target to collect N$10 million by the end of March this year. 
“It is our goal to subsidise the feed cost of farmers in order to help farmers to fatten livestock for the market, while also assisting them to maintain their core breeding herd,” said Roelie Venter, NAU’s Executive Manager.
He said another important principle of the assistance would be not to donate feed to farmers, but to make certain feeds more affordable through subsidisation.

“The agricultural retail outlets (Kaap&Agra) with their retail branches countrywide would be used to reach farmers, and these subsidised prices will be available in all branches,” Venter said.

He said the management of the fund has appointed SGA Chartered Accountants and Auditors to perform a full scoop financial audit on the fund to ensure accountability of all monies received and the distribution thereof.
Crop farming has also been badly affected in the first half of the 2018/2019.

Despite the early and good rainfall showers received at the start of the rainfall season, which is end of October to early November, there were no follow up rains to strengthen the onset of the rainfall season. According to farmers, high temperatures, light showers and dry conditions have dominated the first half (October to December 2018) of the season. 

Productive rains were only received end of December to early January, but are reportedly still poor and many farmers have since started with their agricultural activities. These revelations are contained in the December 2018 Agricultural Food Security Situation Report which was released by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry last week. The report indicated that limited or no fertilisers stock noted in most regions is a cause of concern, as this will affect the already rainfall stressed crop production. 

Apart from limited or no fertilisers stock available in most of the regions, all the regions indicated their readiness in terms of having the basic inputs and access to cultivation services in place to kick start the season.  
It further reported that grazing continues to deteriorate in various parts of the country amidst poor rainfall performance in the first half of the season. 

The situation is being exacerbated by the prolonged dry season, which was seen in the forms of delayed rainy season and erratic rainfall patterns, which dominated the season. The situation is said to be more severe in the southern regions of the country where poor rainfall was experienced last season.  

However, it shows that household food security remained satisfactory in most regions, following a significant improvement in agricultural production in the last two seasons. At the time of this assessment, the majority of households were reported to be dependent on their harvests for food access. 

According to households interviewed in the major communal crop producing regions, their production is enough and expected to sustain them till the next harvest in May 2019.  Aminuis Constituency in the Omaheke Region was reported to be the hardest hit and according to the agricultural extension officers, mortality due to malnutrition in the area is on the rise.

In the northeastern parts of the country (Zambezi, Kavango East and Kavango West regions), grazing was reported to range between fair and poor in many places. For the Zambezi Region, grazing was reported to range between poor and fair in areas along the river and poor in the inland. Many farmers are reported to have moved their livestock to the riverside for better grazing. In the Kavango East and Kavango West regions, grazing was reported to be poor along the river, but fair to good in the inland areas. 

For the north central regions, grazing was reported to range between poor and fair. It was reported that poor grazing condition is worsened by the delayed rainfall season. Farmers noted that, under normal circumstances, grazing was supposed to be recovering at the beginning of the rainfall season, normally early to mid-November, but at the time of the assessment in mid-December no significant rainfall have yet been received to rejuvenate grazing. 

Reference: Kuzeeko Tjitemisa and Albertina Nakale- New Era Newspaper