Farmers’ hopes of normal rainfall dashed

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By Deon Schlechter

WINDHOEK – It will take a miracle to save Namibian crop and livestock producers to change their minds about a very bleak year ahead with weather experts predicting below-average rainfall for Namibia over the next couple of months.

Hydrologists and weather experts Farmers Forum spoke to have confirmed this, saying below-average rainfall for the rest of the current rain season until April Is bad news for farmers. They agree that producers will be fortunate to receive normal rainfall but even if they do it won’t be sufficient for the growth of crops.According to the weather outlook of the Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF) and the Global SST, the south-western part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region will have normal to below-normal rainfall from February to April. This includes Namibia, Botswana, parts of South Africa and southern Angola.

According to the two agencies, the rest of SADC will receive normal to above-normal rainfall, with the possibility of floods in some countries. Farmers’ Forum today reports on the worrying situation unfolding in all the crop areas and can also confirm that livestock farmers are facing a tough and unpredictable year ahead, as there won’t be enough grazing for their livestock. There has been such a delay in the rainfall that whatever rainfall Nmibia now receives until April will not be helpful to farmers, both crop and livestock. Weather experts have drawn the conclusion that the whole country is going to suffer. It is a very unfortunate situation and miracles could still happen but prospects aren’t looking good.

During November 2014 to January 2015, it was predicted that south-western part of SADC would receive normal to above-normal rainfall. However, only a few countries in that region received above-normal rainfall. Communal and commercial crop farmers as well as livesock farmers have expressed grave concern about the unfolding situation after farmers Farmers’ Forum reported last week that a dismal total white maize harvest of only 35 percent of last year’s more than 73 000 tonnes can be expected this season. Crop producers in the north central areas say it looks looks like they will have to feed their familes from grocery shops as they do not expect much from their fields. However, the situation has once again put the spotlight on Conservation Agriculture (CA) as farmers practising these methods are confident they will be better off and able to at least feed hungry mouths in their communities.

At the same time army worms have made their appearance in some areas in the north central regions while some communal famers have already tried their luck at re-planting after their crops failed in December in the absence of rain. Great concern hovers over the communal farmers’ mahangu fields and some of them using conventional tilling methods have littlehope of any yields this year. This year we will probably experience drought again and we will have to find ways to manage the situation, they lament .

Vast areas in the Oshana, Omusati, Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions have not received significant rainfall for the past four months and mahangu fields are not showing any signs of life. The Directorate of Extension and Engineering Services in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry is responsible for advising farmers when to start ploughing to minimise losses. Many farmers in communal ares, however, do not even know that such a directorate exists and say they rely on traditional methods of reading the various signs to decide the best time to start ploughing.

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