Government has been urged to review the current drought policy as soon as possible and to establish the Drought Fund as provided for in the policy, whereby farmers could also contribute through levies.
Addressing shortcomings in the drought policy from a farmer’s viewpoint, vice-president of the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU) Ramana Mutjavikua said drought incentives should be decentralised and handled by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry with support of the regional councils.
The country also urgently needs to establish a national structure to monitor the current drought mitigation measures.
“Government must strengthen the early warning system and develop information packages suitable for farmers and which are farmer-friendly. The Comprehensive Conservation Agricultural Programme which was launched last year must be fully implemented as one of the top priorities,” Mutjavikua said.
Mutjavikua further says the way forward for drought-prone Namibia is for the MAWF to coordinate and implement mentorship programmes, as the country has too many of these programmes currently.
“Farmers associations and unions must constantly inform and sensitise farmers about drought mitigation strategies and encourage farmers to adopt new farming technologies.
“Regional Land Use Plans should be aligned with Rangeland Policy, Drought Policy and other land related legislation. Mechanisms must be introduced that will force farmers to comply with rangeland management, control of livestock numbers,” he observed.
He says early warning systems are not decentralised, thus do not assist farmers timely and drought mitigation strategies – such as the on-farm risk management – are not fully implemented.
He says during good seasons farmers need to farm as if they are in drought.
Conditions are so intense and protracted that it needs State intervention and the degree to which population is directly dependent on agriculture in part determines the extent and urgency of such interventions, he added.
“Evidence – globally and locally – show the frequency, duration and intensity of climate-related hazards manifesting in droughts and/or floods, and agriculture is most exposed and vulnerable,” he said.
To reduce the impact, Namibia must adopt a multitude of behavioural, structural and technological adjustments,” he advised. He says the ability to manage climate risks is fundamental to disaster prevention and preparedness, resulting in well-defined response mechanisms.
“Drought and changing climatic conditions threaten food security, agricultural economy, productivity, water, excessive high temperatures and environmental degradation. Unsustainable farming methods and practices equally contribute to man-made drought.
“Man-made drought, such as overstocking, unsustainable practices and uncontrolled veld fires further attribute to drought and environmental degradation. While bush encroachment in the case of Namibia is a further threat to productive rangeland,” noted.
He further said the 1997 drought policy and strategy has not fully been implemented. The policy makes provision for an effective, equitable and sustainable approach and that is not visible in the implementation.
The Office of the Prime Minister has a coordinating role in the absence of a standing structure consisting of public and private sector role players that will consult, monitor and evaluate drought mitigation measures that are in place.
“MAWF is the custodian of the drought policy, but the management towards prevention and preparedness still leaves much to be desired,” Mutjavikua further told New Era.