ONDANGWA – Livestock farmer John Amutenya has never witnessed such critical conditions in livestock and grazing in his more than twenty years of farming near Ondangwa.
“This year drought has the potential to break farmers’ backs and destroy everything they have built up over many years,” says the man who is now advising fellow farmers to sell their livestock at a rapid rate and try to survive the drought, which is getting worse by the day as grazing disappears and crop fields wilt in the blazing sun with no sign of rain. Amutenya farms on 3 000 hectares with 200 heads of mixed breed cattle in the Mangeti East Block and says he has never been in such a precarious situation. “It’s a case of sell now and maybe regret it later if decent rains come again or don’t sell and also regret it if there is no money for food on the table. Whatever your choice, we are in for a terrible tough time,” says the hardened farmer who lived through the droughts of 2007 and 2013 and many other dry spells.
He say the combined effect of the drought of 2013 and this year’s appalling conditions have caught up with every farmer in the Northern Communal Areas (NAC). “This is now a question of survival with selling of livestock the sensible choice as we do not expect late rains and it would not help in any event as it is way too late for grazing to recover. We need a miracle to recover from this one and we need a lot of help from Government if we are to survive. Training and teaching about rangeland management is of critical importance for now and in the future as we will be constantly subjected to such challenges n our dry country and in the face of climate change which is happening every day,” he notes.
Amutenya says the government must be fully up to date with the difficult conditions under which communal farmers have to farm and realise their shortages regarding transport, infrastructure and implements. Communal farmers also can’t afford to feed their livestock as it is a very costly undertaking that could ruin them financially.
“All of our communal farming areas in the NCAs reek of devastation. Most farmers have hardly seen a drop of rain in January and February this year while the rains stopped on December 10 last year. Now we live in hope of some miracle and that is no way to live and farm and take care of your family. The dry spells year after year spells doom and we will have to adapt and change our ways of farming,” he concludes.