Harvest Prospects Uncertain

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By William J. Mbangula Oshakati Harvest prospects in the North this year are too difficult to tell at the moment because the rain pattern in various regions is not the same. This is the view of the Acting Director of Extension and Engineering Services in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) Lucas Nantanga. In an interview with New Era, Nantanga noted that indications so far are that the rain pattern is too difficult to predict given the fact that the rainfall received in various parts of the North is not consistent. So far, indications are that Omusati region has received more rain than Ohangwena, Oshana and Oshikoto regions combined. Rainfall recorded from the MAWF bureaus shows that Oshikuku received 70 mm this week, with Ogongo, Outapi and Ruacana each in Omusati region having received 100 mm. Ohangwena and Oshana received less than 50 mm with part of Oshikoto having the poorest rainfall. Nantanga said his office will only be able to make an accurate prediction about the envisaged harvest next month when the Early Warning Unit visits the region to assess the impact and prospects of the rainfall. “I would like to advise farmers to use every drop of rain to work and plant their fields because the rain is unpredictable at the moment. They must also resort to using the drought resistant variety of okashana,” said Nantanga. Meanwhile, the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU)’s Mahangu Support Marketing Initiative Project is reported to have yielded positive results last year. According to the NNFU Programme Coordinator Etuhole Ingo, the programme which started in 2004 and is operational in six north-central and north-east regions is helping crop farmers to sell their products in an organised manner. Operating in conjunction with the Namibia Agronomic Board (NAB), the NNFU has assisted farmers to sell their products at reasonable prices in quantity and in strengthening their farming capacity. Last year, the programme raised funds from sorghum and mahangu task teams. Apart from that, the programme has developed and distributed information material to farmers, which are used by various training centres in the regions. Such training centres are spread in various regions such as nine in Omusati, eight in Oshana, seven in Oshikoto and four in Ohangwena. In the Caprivi and Kavango regions, where farmers are more advanced when it comes to marketing of their products, such farmers deliver to the main centres of Rundu and Katima Mulilo. Ingo noted that next month, an evaluation workshop will be conducted to revisit their activities of last year and find a way of improving and facing the challenges confronting the NNFU programme. Challenges facing the programme include the high transport cost per bag, lack of pre-cleaning equipment, lack of storage facilities, lack of funds to build collection points, lack of support and encouragement from traditional leaders for the need for marketing mahangu, and lack of quality products which affect prices because sometimes the farmers want to earn more while they produce low-quality crops. There are two types of millers at the moment, Namib Mills, which wants only to take current-harvest mahangu, while other millers in the community can take both. During the 2006 mahangu marketing campaign, a significant number of farmers participated from various regions through their own organisations. In Oshikoto, 64 farmers participated, Oshana 87, Omusati 181, Kavango 389 and Caprivi 289. The number of participants in the Caprivi and Kavango regions is quite high because they have been in the trade for some time. With regard to their production output, the Caprivi region had the highest figure in 2005 at 136 tonnes, Oshikoto 28 tonnes, Oshana 53 tonnes and Omusati eight tonnes. In 2006 the Kavango region was ahead with 292 tonnes, followed by Caprivi with 184, Omusati 70 tonnes, Oshikoto 45 and Oshana 42 tonnes. In total 1 016 tonnes with a value of N$1,6 million were marketed by the farmers through the NNFU last year. This figure does not include the informal marketing. Expressing his personal view on the prospects for harvesting this year, NAB Mahangu Desk Officer Lungameni Lucas said if the rainfall can allow the farmers some breathing space to plough and plant their fields, it could result in a good harvest. Such a good harvest can only be guaranteed if farmers use short-season varieties such as okashana.

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