Despite the region having been devastated by spells of terrible drought over three consecutive years, three members of the senior council of the Traditional Authority of Chief Hikuminue Kapika of Epupa in the Kunene region travelled all the way to Windhoek to attend last week’s 27th Okamatapati Show in Windhoek.
“We came here for one reason only and that is to learn from the emerging farmers of the Ongombe Show Association (OFA) on what cattle breeds are best in extremely dry conditions and also to see how they manage rangeland and grazing,” says Tungee Raphaec, secretary of the council.
He was accompanied by two fellow members, Pehaama Tjindunde (spokesperson) and Uakaparu Tjindunde, and found the experience informative and uplifting.
They related how their region has been devastated by the ongoing droughts where the population of 12 816 of the Epupa Constituency near the Epupa Falls located on the Angolan-Namibian border, fight a daily battle to survive. Epupa means “Streaming Waters” in Otjiherero.
Grazing and livelihoods have rapidly deteriorated as the dry spell worsens in the region, they say. People and livestock in the Kunene Region are seriously affected by the water crisis following erratic rainfall this year.
Chairman of the Kunene Regional Council, Dudu Murorua, last month said Kunene only received 83 millimetres of rain – and as a result people, livestock and elephants graze and search for water in the same areas, which poses a threat to humans.
“This is a challenge as people and elephants are going to the same areas because of drought,” said Murorua. He says the other big challenge is that when people migrate to other areas in search of greener pastures, other people claim ownership of the deserted settlements and occupy their villages. However, Murorua said Kunene residents are currently being trained to practise rotational grazing as part of the National Rangeland Programme.
The three-man mission confirmed that the community in Kunene is receiving grazing training, where they are taught to move to other pastures to rest the areas that they have grazed already.
Yet despite all the challenges, they are upbeat that they will be able to stage Epupa’s very first agricultural show in the near future. Raphaec says they came to learn and armed with the new knowledge they will implement these principles.
“Our dream is to also stage such a show. My people are fighting a constant battle to survive and are very grateful for drought relief food supplied by the government, but we want to make a statement by staging our very own show to tell the world that we are not succumbing to the harsh and unforgiving circumstance. We’ve learned a lot from members of the Ongombe Farmers Association and we will march on,” he said with conviction.
They say communal farmers in Kunene have up to 300 heads of cattle and in many cases farmers are flocking to Angola in search of better grazing. They also farm with goats and sheep on a small scale, but their livelihood depends largely on their cattle.
“We want to bring in new breeds as we only know Nguni cattle, but we have learned a lot about hardened breeds, such as the White Brahman and want to purchase some of these animals and start experimenting with them, says Raphaec.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, cattle go as far as 250 km inside Angola in search of grazing. Earlier this year, the governor of the Ohangwena Region warned farmers to refrain from fencing off areas in Angola illegally.