Drought Relief on Its Way

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Cabinet has instructed regional councils to identify and register all people affected by drought this year. This will enable the National Emergency Management Committee to make plans and attend to the problem. Cabinet directed the emergency committee to use the N$20 million which has already been provided from the Contingency Fund to cater for drought in the affected areas. The committee has to implement and coordinate the emergency programme for six months. Cabinet Secretary Frans Kapofi, on instructions from the Prime Minister, last month conducted regional inspections in the Erongo, Caprivi and Kunene regions. Findings show that the Daures and Otjimbingwe constituencies in Erongo, and the Kunene and the Western Caprivi are severely affected by drought and water shortages. A total of 13 002 households or 78 012 people are affected in these regions. Most households depend on livestock and crop production for food security and income. In areas of Otjimbingwe and the Daures constituencies, some families have been without water for two to six months. Extended drought conditions and ensuing water shortages in these areas will likely cause severe stress on both people and livestock, a Cabinet statement said. Livestock is already in a fair to poor condition. Poor harvests this year were due to poor rains, prolonged dry spells, high temperatures and an outbreak of pests such as the red-bellied quelea birds at critical stages of crop development. The pests reduced the yields by 10 percent. Severely affected regions are Caprivi, Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana and Oshikoto. Most farmers, especially those in the areas of Western Caprivi, part of Katima Mulilo Rural and the Kabbe constituencies, have no food. Most of the affected areas require food assistance and emergency grazing as well as water supply. Cabinet also mandated the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry to activate the Katima/Kongola water pipeline to provide water to the affected areas. The Namibia Early Warning and Food Information Unit (NEWFIU) Report released recently by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry said most of the areas did not require emergency food assistance. The report explained that following a good 2006 cereal harvest, those threatened by possible hunger could survive from sufficient carryover stocks as well as alternative Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) food relief and other income sources such as pension, remittances and piece work. Coping activities for poor households, the report recommends, could include casual labour, production and sale of alcoholic beverages, consumption of wild fruits, sale of livestock, sale of handcrafts, firewood and charcoal, as well as fishing and hunting. Domestic cereal production in 2006/7 is estimated at 114 100 tonnes. From this, 52 100 tonnes are white maize, 44 500 tonnes are pearl millet, 4 500 tonnes are sorghum and 13 500 tonnes are winter wheat. Cereal import requirements for the 2007/8 marketing year are estimated at 132 699 tonnes, of which 89 400 tonnes are expected to be imported commercially with a deficit of 43 200 tonnes. Compared to the 2005/6 farming season, production for 2006/7 is lower by 40 percent.