Farmers Plead for Help

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Cattle farmers in some parts of the Kunene Region area are appealing for government assistance in the wake of a drought that has hit the area. The Ngatuuane Farmers’ Union, traditional councillors and extension workers say farmers need urgent relief cattle feed to prevent their animals from starving. Farmers say not much rain has fallen in the area, which has resulted in a shortage of grazing. Motjimbika Mutambo, a traditional councillor under Chief Kapika, said there was a serious drought especially in the Epupa constituency and some farmers have reported livestock deaths. “Some animals died in December, then it rained, but now they have started dying again. Grass started growing but since the rain is gone, it is also drying up,” he said from Opuwo. He said the inhabitants of the drought-stricken areas have no other means but to ask the government for cattle fodder. Bush fires also destroyed most of the grazing in the latter part of 2006 that affected parts of Namutoni, Omusati and most parts of Kunene, making the situation even worse. “Hectares upon hectares of grass burnt leaving our animals with not much food,” added Uarije Karipetua, of the Kaoko Epupa Development Foundation. Kunene is among the regions worst affected by forest fires in the country. Statistics indicate that forest fires are a problem in Namibia resulting in the loss of 3.7 million hectares every year. Ngatuuane Chairperson, Ben Kapi, old New Era yesterday there were fears of serious animal feed and food shortages in almost all the constituencies of Kunene. Kapi said even though it had rained, it was not enough for the grass to recover considering that most areas are also overgrazed. The Meteorological Office yesterday could not provide rainfall figures from since the beginning of the year, saying Opuwo has an automatic weather station which has since broken down. Opuwo and its surrounding areas are said to hold about 27 000 cattle and 29 000 small stock. The union’s chairman said farmers would need animal feed as early as March to avert livestock deaths due to starvation. During the regional show, which was held in November 2006 in Opuwo, Kapi said, most animals from Sesfontein, Orumana and Otjokavare were in a poor condition, with some looking very weak. John Mutambo, a clerical assistant at the Extension Office in Sesfontein, said the office has received reports of calves dying in the wombs because cows are too weak to give birth. Mutambo added that if the situation goes unattended, farmers would have serious problems come March. “If it does not rain we will have serious problems because most people rely on animals and if there are no animals, they do not have food,” Mutambo said.