Relentless Rains Devastate Crops

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By Chrispin Inambao

WINDHOEK

The latest crop assessment by the Early Warning Unit in the Ministry of Agriculture paints a bleak overall picture regarding domestic cereal production for the 2007/8 season because of heavy rains and floods.

Widespread floods in the Caprivi, Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto and Ohangwena regions and a devastating armyworm outbreak in Oshana and Oshikoto compound matters.

A report compiled by the Namibia Early Warning and Food Information Unit (NEWFIU) states that there will be an overall reduction in cereal harvest in Namibia for the 2008/9 marketing season because the 2007/8 crop season shows a decrease of 14 percent compared to the yearly average of six percent.

Most crop-growing regions namely: Caprivi, Kavango, Omusati, Ohangwena and Oshana received heavy to unfavourable rains for crops, which significantly reduced crop-growing conditions. This is likely to reduce yields by at least 23 percent.

The heavy rains received between mid-January and early last month particularly in Caprivi and the north central regions have resulted in waterlogging and leaching, leading to poor germination and stunted growth.

“Many fields in the Caprivi, Omusati, Ohangwena and Oshana regions are submerged and the situation for the north central regions was exacerbated by floodwater from Angola,” it says, adding that the armyworm outbreak poses a major threat to both crop and pasture that is trying to establish itself after a recent prolonged drought.

The report notes that most crops in the north central regions struggled through germination due to repeated waterlogged conditions causing yellow discolouration and stunted growth.

Waterlogging compelled many communal farmers, more so in the north central regions, to replant several times in a bid to improve crop populations in their fields “which in most cases proved futile”.

This season, the Omusati Region showed a 30 percent reduction in the whole area planted, Ohangwena had a reduction of 23 percent in the entire area planted, Oshikoto had 23 percent and the Caprivi Region had 14 percent less.

For Ohangwena, the rains have generally presented many challenges to farmers, leading to a reduction in the planted area as floods coupled with the shortage of draught power led to at least 10 percent reduction in the planted area compared to last year.

But farmers predict that if current heavy rains persist for the rest of the season, there is a possibility of a complete crop failure in the Ohangwena Region.

Armyworm invasions in Oshana pose a threat to both crop and pasture as the pests are reported to have stripped some of these areas bare.

Constituencies where the armyworm outbreak was reported in Oshana include Onyaanya, Onayena, Olukonda, Omuntele, Oniipa and Omuthiya
The Directorate of Extension and Engineering Services has applied pesticides to the affected areas following the armyworm outbreak.

Since draught animals, mainly donkeys, were weak, Oshana farmers managed to cultivate using mostly tractors and they expect a good harvest.

The report issued by the Namibia Early Warning and Food Information Unit says the impact of floods is the major cause in the reduction of planted area in the Caprivi Region. While in the Omusati, Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions, the reduction in area planted was caused by delayed rains, floods and the weak state of draught animals.

Despite these problems, NEWFIU forecasts Namibia’s planted course grain area will be 246??????’??

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