By Petronella Sibeene
Small stock farmers in different parts of the country face a tough situation, as they are not only affected by drought but also the prevailing cold conditions.
Farmers in some parts of the country this winter season have expressed worry on the cold conditions that have already started claiming lives of small animals in some areas.
In the Omaheke and Karas regions, some farmers have since last week lost between 10 and 12 animals due to the cold.
The Otjinene Farmers’ Association office Administrator Benjamin Tjipetekera yesterday told New Era that most farmers in his area have resorted to digging holes in their kraals where small animals are kept during the evening to keep them warm in efforts to avoid deaths related to the weather.
“We dig holes and put the small animals. The top is then covered with iron-corrugated sheets and on top we put sand. We however leave small space for the animals to breathe,” said a small stock farmer from Otjinene Mbamunondjamo Kahangoro. Kahangoro lost four lambs last week.
Farmers started with the “hole digging system” already in May this year.
While only pocket cases of losses have been recorded in the Karas region, the Chairman of the Southern farmers’ Union Johannes Jansen says tough times lie ahead.
Unlike last year, this year farmers have to deal with lack of water, a shortage of grazing and currently, the severe cold conditions.
Since last week, parts of Namibia experienced an unusually cold spell. The icy-cold temperatures were also felt in parts of neighbouring countries such as South Africa. The South African Weather Service warned yesterday that very cold conditions are expected to persist over the high ground of the southern and eastern free states, eastern part of the Eastern cape, Western KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga highveld and escarpment.
Snowfalls are possible on the high ground of Mpumalanga escarpment.
Meanwhile, the Namibian Department of Meteorological Services yesterday warned that chilly nights and mornings are expected to continue as another cold episode over the Southern, Central and Eastern parts will last throughout the week.
Meteorological Technician Olga Tjiueza said temperatures are only likely to recover significantly during the weekend.
“Slightly warming of 3.4 degrees Celsius is expected in the South and central parts today. Temperatures are likely to recover during the weekend,” she said.
Yesterday, most areas across the country recorded minimum temperatures of between negative one and two.
Coastal areas are experiencing fine and warm to hot conditions with sandstorms mainly along the central coast due to the offshore flow.
The northeastern part can also expect slight cooling as from tomorrow, with some fair weather clouds due to an upper air trough invading the sub region.
With this year’s seasonal rainfall over, some parts of Namibia suffered low levels of rainfall, with below average rains recorded in others This has also adversely affected the establishment of vegetation in some regions.
“We are heading for tough times. Already, water is scarce,” said Jansen.
Even if grass is available, Jansen says, it is dry. He added there is a need for supplementary food for animals. Unfortunately, most farmers in that region are subsistence farmers and cannot afford buying supplements.
The Namibia Early Warning and Food Information Unit (NEWFIU) Report 2007 warns that animal farmers are likely to feel the drought situation more due to poor pastures.
Farmers are encouraged to consider culling and selling old and non-productive animals to avoid losses which might be inevitable in the coming few months.
“Impacts on livestock watering holes and grazing lands could be significant as the dry season progresses (August/September), and this would decrease value and increase morbidity and mortality in small stock and cattle in particular,” the report says.