Caprivi Expects Poor Harvest

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By Berio Mbala WINDHOEK Hundreds of communal farmers in Caprivi, who depend mainly on seasonal rains to water their crops, expect poor yields from the coming harvest because of low rainfalls at the onset of the ploughing season. According to Mathias Semi, the Chief Executive Officer of Likwama Farmers Union, an organization serving the interests of farmers in Caprivi, the region expects a poor harvest in the 2006/2007 season due to a reduction in rains. Likwama derives its name from the Linyanti, Kwando and Mashi rivers. Semi said rains started late last year, resulting in farmers running out of patience and losing time for ploughing. The people only started ploughing in late November and December. He said the harvest for last year was far better compared to this year, which is likely to be low. Six thousand tonnes of maize were harvested as well as an undisclosed tonnage of other crops because these are not usually quantified. This year’s harvest could be 50 percent lower because of the low rainfalls. He also noted that last year’s price for maize was lower because there was too much of the crop. The price per tonne is normally N$1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 600 compared to the cost of production that stands at N$200 per tonne, he said quoting last year’s figures. Semi said the main crop being planted in the Caprivi region is maize because people think it is easy to harvest and thresh, and it has its own market in the region. Also, most inhabitants prefer maize. They feel maize meal is easy to process compared to millet and sorghum. He said people also think maize meal tastes better and, besides being less labour-intensive, it has a ready market in the region. “Labour-intensive crops are low and easy compared to other crops which are very labour-intensive,” he said. The bigger buyers of maize used in the regions are Namib Mills, Kamunu maize meal and Rings. Those who harvest sorghum and millet have to market them in other regions. He said that the maize needed in the market was bought and any surplus was transported out of the region to Windhoek where it was bought by Namib Mills. “The surplus (for last year) was approximately 1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 tonnes. The maize which was bought in the region was processed and consumed in the region by the local people,” said Likwama’s CEO. The biggest problem faced by people in Caprivi Region is marketing and transporting their product to the market. They only have few potential buyers for their crops. Farmers are only able to sell a limited amount and the rest has to be stored in traditional granaries. When too much maize was produced last year, people faced storage problems, resulting in a substantial amount of the crops rotting. This year, less food will be produced because 50 percent of the rain fell in the northern parts of the region such as Kasheshe, M’pacha and Singalamwe, and 40 percent fell in the Masokotwani and Linyanti areas, and this has been the highest rainfall in the region. Semi also noted that people who hire their tractors out to others to plough, only do so after planting their own fields. In the Caprivi Region, approximately 20 people own tractors. Semi advised the farmers to change the way they plant by inter-changing crops and to add manure to their land.