Two Regions Face Food ‘Insecurity’

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK DUE to a decline in food production in the Caprivi and Kavango regions last year, the two regions face greater food insecurity. A food security assessment conducted in six regions of the country to assess the current food security status at household level found that the two regions had the highest Coping Strategy Index compared to others in the north, namely, Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena and Oshikoto. The high Coping Strategy Index (CSI) of 74 for Caprivi and 54 for Kavango are an indicator of distress and greater food insecurity, says the Namibia Early War- ning and Food Information Unit Bulletin of December 2005. The other four northern regions scored 32 for Omusati, 17 for Oshana, 19 for Ohangwena and 21 for Oshikoto, which showed that they are in a satisfactory food situation. The Caprivi and Kavango regions already experienced a drop in food production for the second consecutive season due to persistent drought during the first half of the 2005/2006 rainy season. For both regions, last year’s coarse grain output was lower than in both 2004 and the average for the past five years. For Caprivi, the aggregate 2005 coarse grain output was forecasted at 2 100 tonnes, 76 percent lower in 2003 and 80 below the five year average coarse grain production, while Kavango was forecasted at 2 500 tonnes, 44 percent lower than in 2004 and still below the average of the past five years. At the time of the assessment, respondents in the Caprivi and Kavango regions had already finished their harvest, while others indicated they did not harvest at all. However, the report notes that even when the Caprivi region gets good harvests, most people sell their maize and then buy maize meal from the shops. The report noted that most people in the Caprivi purchase their staple food while others in the Kavango and the four northern regions have their own sources of staple food. In addition to this, it was also noted that even though food items were available in the Caprivi region, families lacked the income to purchase them. “Like in Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana and Oshikoto, it came out from respondents that old age pension grants (N$300) provided to elderly citizens is the most important income source and indeed essential safety net against food insecurity,” the bulletin adds. As far as prospects for 2006 are concerned, the bulletin says that cereal production is uncertain because of drier conditions in October, November and December. At the same time, it has been forecasted that there is a greater likelihood of normal to below rainfall for most parts of Namibia. While the outlook for October, November and December 2005 indicated a normal to below normal rainfall over the north to north-eastern Namibia and normal to above normal over the north-west to the east, the bulletin notes that rainfall across the six crop growing regions has been late and crop cultivation has not yet started. For the rest of Namibia however, normal to below normal rainfall has been forecasted. The outlook also forecasts that a greater part of Namibia in the first three months of 2006, January, February and March, is likely to receive normal to above normal rainfall. This below normal rainfall that is forecasted in addition to the dry conditions prevailing has raised concerns especially for the outlook of staple food crops. The coarse grain output for the past four seasons from 2000 to 2005 has remained below the bumper harvest of 140 000 tonnes of the 2000/2001 crop season. The poor harvest of the 2004/05 crop season is attributed to the late onset of productive rainfall, reduced area of cultivation, and low crop yields, including the abrupt end of rainfall by the end of April 2004, which resulted in poor grain formation.