By Donna Collins
SEVERE drought, water shortages and land desecrated by veldt fires in the Erongo region, have left nearly 5 000 head of cattle dead since the start of the year, with subsistence farmers either pushed onto roadside corridors in search of grazing, or sitting it out at the mercy of the elements.
“These farmers do not want to live like this, but they are battling the odds in extremely difficult times and need help,” stressed the Erongo Governor Cleophas Mutjavikua, during a donation ceremony in which N$165 000 was pledged by Rössing Uranium, Bannerman Resources and Erongo RED.
“The situation is critical, and these circumstances call for extraordinary measures,” said Mutjavikua, adding that commercial farmers and public institutions need to come to the table to make life bearable for these desperate farmers and their animals.
“Cattle moving along the roadside corridors are not given access to the grazing on the other side of the fence by farmers, and I ask why they cannot at least allow these subsistence farmers to cut grass from their land to feed their cattle, instead of leaving them to starve.
“The Erongo Regional Council will also assist with farmers, who may not have the means of transport to move out, but it is crunch time, and everyone must give a helping hand to the next one in these terrible drought-stricken times.”
According to Nathalia / Goagoses, Erongo Council chief regional officer, the toll on these farmers and their livestock is unbearable, and from frequent visits into the field, she said that no one should turn a blind eye to the suffering, as every donation helps.
“We know the tough economic situation that the private and business sector is facing, and are most thankful for this donation, which will go straight towards helping those beneficiaries earmarked as a priority.
She said while the donations are a lifesaver, it was not a sustainable solution, and that farmers have been encouraged to sell off some of their cattle and reduce their herds if they want to survive till the rains come.
But she added, that most animals were too thin even to sell, and the group that is being assisted, is the result of a study conducted in the field between the regional council and the agriculture extension officers.
Speaking on behalf of Erongo RED, Acting CEO Freddie Vries said they heard the pleas from the farmers, the Government and the office of the Governor to assist the embattled farming community in Erongo region, and did not hesitate to come on board.
“Our corporate social responsibility committee is happy to say that they have sourced fodder supplies, which will be distributed by the ongoing relief efforts of the office of the Governor,” said Vries.
“As a company we believe that we have an obligation to assist our community, but since we cannot prevent or dictate climate change or drought due to lack of rain, we can anticipate such challenges and come up with strategies.
“There is already overwhelming evidence that practical drought prevention measures work, and we need to educate and train our communities to manage the size of their livestock and managing grazing land to mitigate the impact of drought. “I am not a farmer but I believe that the strategies that are applied in the business world today can also work for farmers, as just like in a normal business, farmers need to be proactive and move away from traditional farming and embrace new livestock farming methods.”
Rössing donated N$100 000, Erongo RED N$50 000 and Bannerman N$15 000. The money will be used specifically to purchase fodder for the affected cattle, in a time when the first round of drought aid assistance of N$1.3mmil has also run dry.
Farming areas affected badly by the drought are, Daures, Uis, Omatjete, Okombahe, Otimbingwe, Spitzkoppe, Uis, and the Topnaars communities.
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