Devastating drought high on Swapo agenda

By Deon Schelchter

Devastating drought high on Swapo agenda

Windhoek

The second year of consecutive drought and the vast and direct impact thereof on more than one quarter of the Namibian population was one of the key discussion points at last Sunday’s seventh meeting of the Swapo Central Committee.
The in-depth discussions came a day before the release of the Namibian Agronomic Board’s latest report on expected white maize harvests for this season, which indicates a total of 44 376 tonnes of the staple diet of Namibians can be expected this season.
The Swapo meeting discussed in detail the prevailing drought that affects more than 500 000 people directly. Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila gave a report on the government drought relief food programme, which includes maize meal, tinned fish, tinned beef and fresh meat
The growing concern about the drought comes at a time when crop estimates are slightly better than last year’s harvest but still below average. Kuugongelwa-Amadhila announced the N$100 million donation by South Africa towards drought relief efforts has been delivered and that the upgrading of water infrastructure as part of the drought relief package by South Africa is ongoing.
Late rains have changed the expected total white maize harvest from the maize triangle and environs and the total maize harvest is now pinned at more than 44 376 tonnes, after 9 628 hectares were planted countrywide. Almost 4 400 hectares been planted in the maize triangle, traditional breadbasket of the country.
Some 15 000 tonnes are now expected from this area, the administrative wheat and maize manager of the Namibian Agronomic Board, Antoinette Venter, confirmed to New Era yesterday.
The urgent discussions also came at a time when a revised drought relief programme is expected to be finalised any day now by Cabinet and at a time when household food security continues to weaken in various parts of the country. Grazing remains fragile in almost all of the country and producers are marketing their animals for the South African slaughter market, but with great concern as new and stringent import regulations are expected from South Africa early in July.
Venter says 44 376 tonnes of white maize are now expected from rain-fed and irrigation areas as a result of 3 734 hectares planted in the maize triangle, while 2 262 hectares planted under irrigation in the Kavango regions will contribute some 17 000 tonnes of maize.
About 1 377 hectares were planted in the central and eastern areas near Summerdown and 1 520 tonnes are expected from there. Another 142 hectares are under irrigation in the central and eastern regions and more than 1 400 tonnes of maize are expected.
No accurate figures could be obtained for the Zambezi region but 1 000 tonnes of maize are expected to be harvested.
In total, the dry-land (rain-fed) areas will produce 11 251 tonnes of maize from a total of 4 517 hectares planted, while the total harvest from irrigation projects is expected to be 33 125 tonnes from 4 517 hectares planted. In the Hardap and environs 692 hectares are under irrigation with an expected yield of 6 270 tonnes. Some 2 262 hectares were planted in the Kavango East and West regions.
With this scenario playing out, Namibia will most probably have to import some 170 000 tonnes of maize to fill the gap in the market due to poor rainfall in the current planting season. Last year, Namibia imported 210 000 tonnes of cereal to keep hunger at bay. Namibia’s 2015 maize crop was 44 percent lower when compared to 2014’s (above average) output, according to the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN).
It noted that around half of all dry-land commercial farmers experienced total crop losses as a result of the drought and high temperatures.
Government’s drought relief food aid programme for 2015, worth some N$910 million, officially ended on March 31 this year and the new programme is expected any day now.
“The region is ill prepared for a shock of this magnitude, particularly since the last growing season was also affected by drought. This means depleted regional stocks, high food prices and substantially increased numbers of food insecure people,” the UN agency added.



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