By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK – A team comprising of seven crop experts from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and the Emergency Management Unit (EMU) early this week embarked on the final national crop assessment. Once concluded, the assessment would provide a clear picture on whether to declare 2007 a drought year and its magnitude. The team would assess the crop situation in Caprivi, Kavango, Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana and Oshikoto – the six regions that form the food basket of Namibia. Lesley Losper, an economist from the agriculture ministry told New Era yesterday their mission started on Sunday and is expected to end on May 25, 2007. Already, the Caprivi Region where it was initially anticipated there would be a good harvest has been covered and according to Losper, the crop situation is worrisome. “So far in the Caprivi, the situation has changed so much compared to the last time we were there. It is much drier in the fields and most fields are also waterlogged. The picture is bad,” he said. The team is currently in the Kavango Region on a fact-finding mission. In February, the first field trip was undertaken and results showed that fickle rain patterns would severely affect crop harvests this agricultural season. The crop field situation was made worse by prevailing dry conditions especially in the northern parts of the country. As a result of the prolonged dry spell, there was not much activity in terms of planting and by February most crops were still in their infancy. Shocking statistics revealed that about 60 percent of the crops only emerged in February, and the remaining 40 percent were still to be planted. Traditionally, the planting of crops starts as early as November 15, which was not the case this season. During a visit in February by a team comprising of members from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, as well as officials from the emergency unit in the Office of the Prime Minister, crops were expected to have reached a vegetative stage. A glance at the Kavango Region showed that the region was in need and germination had not taken place in the fields. In previous years, water catchments would by this time be full of rainwater, but this year it is not the case. In an earlier interview, the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Dr Nickey Iyambo said depending on the magnitude of the widely anticipated massive crop failure due to erratic rainfall this year, his ministry might request Cabinet to approve additional funds to be used for relief programmes. “The likelihood of drought cannot be ruled out. We will send a team again early April and if nothing positive comes out, we will alert Cabinet to see what additional financial resources they can provide,” said Iyambo. Every year, government sets aside 50-100 million Namibian dollars for emergency purposes. A final report on the possible drought situation will be released as soon as the fieldwork is complete. It will determine what action government might take, if any, in response to the situation.
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