More than 16 percent of the Namibian population is urgently in need of food support because of the impact of the 2015/2016 drought that has placed 578 480 people at risk of food insecurity.
The agronomic and livestock sectors have suffered the most severe impacts, with the country facing the worst crop performance in 80 years. This dire conclusion was revealed by Deputy Minister of Agriculture Anna Shiweda, who last week launched the African Drought Conference.
She said the impacts of droughts are multi-faceted and critical, as the effects play out at both national and household levels.
According to the ministry’s official statement, 31.6 million people are now food insecure in the SADC region due to the ongoing El Nino and it is feared that this could rise to 49 million the current dry season. Namibians have witnessed the condition of livestock deteriorate and a rising number of livestock mortalities in various regions.
“We’re also now witnessing the forced marketing of livestock caused by the unavailability of grazing and increased grazing costs. Beyond the impacts on the agricultural sector, the impacts of the drought on availability of water should also not be underestimated and the situation in the central areas calls for us to develop new and innovative technological approaches in terms of how we supply and manage the use of our scarce water resources,” Shiweda stated.
She stressed the need to be pro-active and to seek solutions that enhance the country’s resilience to drought.
“Most drought-prone countries continue to be inadequately prepared to cope with drought events and tend to focus on reacting after the event, rather than mitigating the impacts of droughts through enhancing preparedness over the long term. This, however, tends to increase the burden on the State and results in high levels of expenditure on emergency relief programmes,” she noted.
The deputy minister said of utmost importance is the adoption of sustainable management practices for Namibia’s range- and croplands, as well as the diversification of livelihoods at local level.
“This can involve climate smart agriculture, such as conservation agriculture, the use of water-saving methods, such as drip irrigation and planting of drought-adapted seed varieties. Rotational grazing and herding practices will restore and maintain the ecological health of rangelands and local farmers should be better equipped to cope with the expected increase climate variability we are likely to face in future,” Shiweda said.
She added that effective drought monitoring and early warning systems at national, regional and global levels are also of increasing importance, as access to information allows for adaptive planning and management at local level. She further stressed the importance of exploring opportunities for insurance coverage mechanisms and financial strategies for dealing with drought.
“The burden of drought relief must not fall on government alone. We need our insurance companies and banks to come on board, so that farmers are protected and insulated from the worst impacts of drought,” she noted.
“We need not import all our food relief during times of crisis, but should rather build up reserves of staples and manufactured foods during the good years, so that we have adequate stocks during the lean years,” she said.
Windhoek will host the next drought conference in August.