Farmers refuse to lie down in the face of severe drought

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 OSHIKANGO – Namibian farmers are as tough and hardened as the environment around them and in times of drought this characteristic is their saving graze.

During an extensive trip on the trial of the drought in most of the regions in the North-Central areas, Farmers’ Forum experienced this positive spirit of farmers/producers in the midst of an advancing drought of unknown proportions. Light showers over the past weekend in various areas and the possibility of more rains in the next two weeks have lifted some producers’ spirits even higher. But the al agree that the effects of the drought won’t be halted by the late rains and will only serve as some kind of relief.

The same never-say-die attitude was observed during last week’s first meeting of the Executive Council of the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) this year, where commercial, communal and emerging farmers testified that they are all actively involved and also look for alternative income sources in spite of the drought and other agricultural problems.

The drought was an important discussion point during the council meeting and the NAU already made proposals to the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) to counter possible consequences of the drought.  It is interesting to see  the agricultural sector still being involved in spite of the drought, not only in assisting fellow farmers but also to look for alternative income sources. An example of the assistance to fellow farmers is the Neu Sommerau project where the NAU is instrumental in the support of the resettled farmers of this farm to create a charcoal project as income source for these farmers. The ultimate goal is that the land which is cleared be used as dry-land agronomic land for these upcoming farmers.

Due to the cost pliers which put the cash flow and finances of the farmers under pressure, these farmers also look at alternative income sources or at least certain actions to limit the expenses. One such possible source is the use of alternative energy sources such as solar panels and bio-mass to generate electricity.

The same positive spirit was observed last week while traveling through most of the regions. Communal farmers admit that the current drought is worse than anything they could prepare for, but none of them have lost faith. There is doubt and uncertainty in every village, but there is also the strong will to survive and even the believe that late rains could still save their wilting crop fields and pick up the depleted forage for their livestock.

Observers and field workers from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) have also noted this positive spirit.

Gideon Nantinda, Tuhafeni Nghilunanye, Marie Johansson and Anna-Tukwafa Shonghela and Sofia Johannes are delighted by this attitude. At King Kauluma in Nehale constituency, Olivia Shimpanda, a CA farmer and also a Kongalend loan client for a tractor and ripper has been operating as a rip furrow service provider since November 2014 and remains positive about the late rains.

Johannes Keshongo in the Omuntele constituency is a CA farmer and a Namibia Communal Agricutlural Project (NCAP) field consultant. He has two farms under CA (the rip furrow method) and is responsible for training 31 NCAP lead farmers and 775 neighbours to the lead farmers in Oshikoto region. He is a very religious man and says the situation is in the hands of God and there will be relief soon. While on his farm, Farmers’ Forum also met with George Haufiku, MAWF Extension Technician in Omuntele constituency, who says it is heart worming to experience the farmers attitude under such trying circumstances.

The same spirit was observed in interviews with Haliana Thomas in Oshigambo, livestock farmer Johannes Amutenya near Ondangwa, Councilor Andreas Amundjindi from the Uukwiuy Uushona constituency and Samuel Nelongo, who is one of the first rip furrow service providers ever in the Ondangwa area.

Inomusa Nyati, the Namibia Country Representative for, and Jan Hapuka, NCBA CLUSA field consultant in the Kunene region, confirmed the farmers’ strong will to survive at the CLUSA Ondangwa office.

Kongalend Financial Services’ Ondangwa branch loan officers Loide Kapuka, and Peter Shiningeni, also testified to this tough attitude and refusal of farmers to lie down. As did Councilor Jason Ndakunda (Ohangwena region) as an NCAP lead farmer and, as an elected Councilor, who holds the Ohangwena Regional Council environment portfolio.

Elizabeth Mwanyangapo, Okalongo constituency Councilor, reiterated this by saying the drought is devastating but the communal farmers will once again survive, learn from the drought and walk out on the other side as more experienced and educated people. Mwanyangapo is also an NCAP lead farmer whose crops are doing exceptionally well in the absence of rain.

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