Thousands of farmers face starvation

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OSHIVELO – A desperate plea for immediate government assistance has rung out from the scorched and wilted maize and mahangu fields north of Oshivelo in the Otjikoto Region.

Food insecurity and subsequent starvation could threaten the livelihoods of thousands of farmers and their families.

Respected community leader and two-time Mahangu King and Mahangu Queen of Namibia (2008 and 2012), John Shipoyeni Shimpanda and Meme Olivia Shimpanda, respectively, say they have never witnessed such desperation in their community since they started farming on their combined maize and mahangu fields of 11 hectares.

This cry for help was reiterated by another community leader and crop famer, Johannes Shikongo, who set the Namibian record of 4 630 tonnes of mahangu in 2013, applying the conservation (CA) method.

He too is devastated and does not expect much from his withering mahangu fields. While they still pray for a miracle in the next two weeks in the form of rain, John and Olivia have given up hope. “It reeks of defeat,” they say and their daily prayers are for government’s timely intervention.

“It is all over, we won’t reap a cupful of manhangu and my 18 children have never witnessed such a situation. People in the villages are all hungry. We already sold our livestock in order to pay for all the expenses for fertilisers and weeding services. We are down and out,” says John Shipoyeni Shimpanda.

The same situation applies to Johannes Shikongo and his family near Omutele. His maize fields on more than seven hectares failed for the first time in more than 34 years.

“I have never witnessed anything like this, I still believe it will rain in the next two weeks, but all of us in this village know the writing is on the wall,” he said as he showed New Era the cowpeas he planted last year as part of a crop rotation system.

The cowpeas are very tough with a deep penetrating root system and are the only crops that have survived the relentless heat that beats down on the plains of north-central Namibia everyday with no signs of rain.

Their neighbour, Klaudia Johannes, has been hit even harder.

She did not apply the ripen and farrow method of CA but instead went for the disk-harrowing method and paid a dear price.
Her fields are as barren and empty as a patch in a desert.

“There is no hope for us surviving without government assistance this year. This is worse than 2013,” she says as her little baby girl Theresa cries in her arms for something to eat.

Arriving on the scene in Omutele, agricultural technician George Haugiu of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, says the government is busy with an assessment of the desperate situation after the Early Warning and Food Security Unit recently completed a survey and a report that is now heading to Cabinet for an immediate decision on the dire situation of food insecurity unraveling in all the regions.

 

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