Cabinet last week approved the extension with immediate effect of the 2015/16 drought relief programme to run from May to July, at the cost of N$89 million over three months.
The 2015/16 drought relief programme officially ended on March 31. Cabinet noted that a final decision on drought relief is pending the outcome of the annual analysis of crop prospects, food security and the drought situation.
The decision was made after Cabinet took note of the feedback on the implementation of the 2015/16 programme and the report on the key findings of the Crop Prospects, Food Security and Drought Situation Report for the 2015/16 rainfall season.
Cabinet also noted that the amount of N$89 million for the extended drought relief programme
would be sourced from the National Emergency Disaster Fund in the Office of the Prime Minister.
The drought of 2016 is marching on relentlessly, claiming livestock and severely impacting on the livelihood of thousands of Namibians in almost all 14 regions.
More than half a million residents in communal areas have stretched their food supplies to the limit and rely entirely on government’s drought relief food supplies. Almost one quarter of the population are now dependent on government’s drought food aid.
Lack of sufficient grazing has already caused many deaths in hard-hit regions, like Omusati and Omaheke, and if the drought continues into the new rainy season, humans and animals would suffer hardship, as the current drought is already documented as the worst in more than 30 years.
Governor of Omusati Erkki Endjala says the drought in his region is getting worse by the day. As in other regions, drought, desertification and land degradation have been accelerated by a long period of insufficient rainfall that started in 2012.
Drought is very severe in Omusati Region and the majority of people there are affected. Many wells have run dry and Omusati Regional Council is now compelled to provide water to affected communities.
Councillor of Uuvudhiya Constituency in the Oshana Region Amutenya Ndahafa said water was pumped into Lake Oponona in November last year from Etaka by the Ministry of Water, Agriculture and Forestry, at his request.
In Kunene Region, farmers have described this year’s drought as critical, as many areas received way below average rainfall in both the 2014 and 2015 rainy seasons. Some areas recorded only about 40 mm this season.
Even though farmers want to sell some of their livestock to mitigate the impact, prices are very low and buyers have become more selective. Kunene Governor Angelika Muharukua says many farmers in the region have lost livestock due to the drought.
A recent study conducted by agricultural technicians in Kunene Region also found that poor rainfall over for the past three rainy seasons continues to negatively impact on pastures in the region, resulting in diminishing perennial water in most villages. Drought has also affected Ohangwena Region, where over 1 000 households from 60 villages in Eengodi Constituency are reportedly in dire need of water – a situation that is described by the Ohangwena Regional Council as potentially life threatening.
Climate change has increased the frequency of droughts, particularly in the arid regions of Africa and Southern Africa, and Namibia in particular.
Environment Commissioner Teofilus Nghitila said due to the drought, desertification and land degradation experienced in Namibia in 2013, the country spent almost N$80 million on drought relief programmes, which was upped to more than N$90 million the following year. The latest extension of the programme will cost N$89 million.
Observers New Era spoke to, conclude that Namibia needs a plan and to act swiftly to improve its preparedness and resistance to drought events.
In April last year, the Office of the Prime Minister announced that 418 000 Namibians were affected by the drought and received government assistance from May. Government has set aside N$300 million for drought mitigation purposes and measures, such as procurement of food for affected communities and households, provision of water for human and animal consumption by drilling new boreholes and rehabilitating old ones, as well as providing assistance to crop producers and livestock farmers.