By Johannes Hangula
AS the hunger season reaches its peak, most rural and farming households that were able to harvest last season are reported to have depleted their yield as the country’ food security weakens.
According to the Agricultural Input and Household Food Security Situation Report of December 2016 carried out by the division of National Warning and Food Information in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) in the seven northern communal major crop producing regions, over 70 percent of Namibians derive their livelihoods directly or indirectly from agriculture which is mostly rain-fed agriculture.
The report indicates that over 700 000 (about 32 percent of the population) are affected by the current drought and about 595 839 continue to receive drought relief assistance from the Government. It was reported that last season’s harvest which was being supplemented with market purchases only lasted at most up to August leaving households completely dependent on the market and Drought Relief Food Programme to access food.
In contrast, last season’s drought was very severe when compared with the current season’s drought which showed a slight improvement in agricultural production. Generally the problem facing the country continues to be lack of food reserves or carryover stock at household level thereby exposing the majority of households to vast impacts of food insecurity.
It is also revealed in the report that although the Government drought relief programme is taking place in the regions, households in the northern communal crop producing regions argued that the relief food takes too long to reach them -for example, after three months in some cases, while some areas claimed to have only received drought relief food once during the course of 2016.
On the pasture and livestock condition, the report states that as it was the case in 2015, grazing continues to deteriorate in various parts of the country as drought conditions continue to strengthen. The situation is said to have been exacerbated by the poor rainfall observed in October to mid-November last year with some areas noting a significant delay in rainfall at the onset of the 2016/2017 rainfall season.
Rainfall started as from end of October to early November 2016, but there were no follow-up rains. The Namibia Meteorological Services predicted normal to above-normal rainfall conditions during October to December but evidence on the ground shows that rainfall has been virtually absent in most parts of the country, except few places where light to moderate showers were received. This is said to have increased the detrimental effects of drought on grazing and water resources and subsequently livestock conditions.
It is further detailed in the report that livestock are reported to be weakening as drought strengthens and was noted between poor to very poor and this is because of drought conditions that continued to negatively impact the available grazing and water resources. Further in the report, with regards to livestock health, suspected cases of Newcastle disease were reported in various parts of the north central regions and the affected farmers are said to have lost their chicken.
Based on the assessment findings, strategies are suggested for possible interventions and future assistance to improve the 2016/2017 agricultural production. Due to the possibility of below normal rainfall conditions during February-March-April throughout the country, MAWF advises farmers to take necessary precautions by avoiding delayed cultivations and take advantage of the first rainfall and the use of early maturity crop.
The Ministry will ensure the availability of Government tractors, and also encourage private tractor owners to participate in the Government ploughing subsidy services in order to assist farmers to plough their crop fields. For weakening household food security, the regional councils with the assistance of traditional leaders are advised to continue monitoring the situation and provide drought relief food to households facing food insecurity.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015