Drought report paints grim picture for northern regions

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Windhoek

Hundreds of thousands of Namibians living in drought-stricken northern Namibia will have to deal with a worrying scenario of a food crisis and loss of income as a result of the ongoing drought, a situation that could worsen if the heavens do not open up soon.

This information is contained in the 2015 Crop Prospects, Food Security and Drought Situation Report that was approved by Cabinet on Tuesday. Following poor rainfall last year, exactly 578 480 people who are severely affected by the drought will need to be fed by government until next March, because of poor crop harvests, weakened household food security, poor grazing conditions, as well as the recent outbreak of Food and Mouth Disease.

The report also pointed out that the majority of rural households experienced a very poor crop harvest and the food supply of large number of people is expected to be depleted by the end of this coming Monday.

Zambezi, Kavango East and West, Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena, Oshikoto regions have been singled out in the report as the worst affected areas. The report was compiled by the National Early Warning and Food Information Unit of the Directorate of Planning.

Despite expecting poor crop harvests, grazing in the Zambezi Region is good in most parts, especially in the flood plain areas, while the availability of water for the livestock is satisfactory in most areas. As for the two Kavango Regions, poor agricultural production was noted.

The report states that despite the sufficient availability of all basic inputs, such as improved seed, fertilisers, as well as ploughing and weeding subsidy services, the regions suffered drastic consequences of poor rainfall.

Omusati Region, on the other hand, also experienced poor crop production. “The western part of the region, especially Onesi, Outapi and Okahao constituencies, noted heavy rainfall during January, which resulted in localised floods that resulted in poor crop germinations.”

Oshana Region also had its own troubles, despite a significant cropping area covered during the season. Many farmers experienced crop failure because of poor rainfall. Rainfall water for livestock is hardly available as most earth dams and pans have dried up, states the report.

Ohangwena Region also reported poor production due to poor rainfall, despite the availability of seed, fertilisers and tractor services. This affected both crop production and grazing conditions, the report indicates.

Oshikoto Region was also no exception, as the region experienced poor rainfall and prolonged dry spells from December to March this year. Water for livestock is also said to be a problem as most of the reservoirs in the region failed to get significant water inflow.

“Given the poor crop harvest, as well as poor grazing conditions, the majority of households are expected to face serious food insecurity conditions by the end of July this year,” the report states.

It is recommended that the current food aid, which was set for three months, targeting the most vulnerable people should be extended to include all households affected by the drought.

The report also recommended that the Directorate of Rural Water Supply should closely monitor the water shortage situation in the affected regions and to directly supply water where intervention is needed.

Livestock farmers have also felt the brunt of the precarious drought situation, but the situation was worsened by the FMD outbreak in the north-central regions, which affected the destocking and marketing of livestock exercise, which forms part of the drought mitigation measures.

“Despite the advice given to farmers to sell some of their livestock, because of the current drought conditions, farmers in the north-central regions are unable to sell their cattle, because of the recent FMD outbreak which was detected in May this year,” the report says.

By the end of last month available cereal stood at 92 500 tonnes and an additional 234 000 tonnes will be needed to meet the country’s domestic cereal requirements. Importing maize will also be an uphill battled according to the report, as South Africa – where Namibia gets most of its maize product – reported a 31 percent decrease in commercial white maize harvest this season.

“According to South Africa’s June 2015 Monthly Food Security Bulletin, the country is expecting 9840 million tonnes this season compared to 14 250 million received last season,” the report stipulates.

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