The Agricultural Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA) has called on all interested surplus grain producers willing to sell maize and mahangu to join AMTA in addressing the acute shortage of grains countrywide. It is estimated Namibia will have to import more than 160 000 tonnes of cereals this year, mostly from South Africa that is also experiencing a debilitating drought.
AMTA’s call comes in the wake of the 2016/17 livelihood vulnerability report released on Monday which states that the drought currently ravaging Namibia has exposed about 730 000 people to food insecurity.
This represents an almost 50 percent increase from last year as the 2015 Crop Prospects, Food Security and Drought Situation report estimated that about 370 000 people were vulnerable to hunger.
Meke Uushona, corporate branding and promotion officer of AMTA says that in line with its mandate, the National Strategic Food Reserve responded to the request from the Office of the Prime Minister’s [OPM] Directorate of Disaster and Risk management [DDRM] to release grain from the reserve in order to relieve the food shortage in the country due to drought.
“It is for that reason that AMTA received five purchasing orders since April 2015 to release total tonnage of 22 873 (508 tonnes mahangu and 22 365 tonnes white maize) as a result of persistent drought. The reserve has released grain to OPM-DDRM in order to respond to the food shortage and distributed it to the needy.”
She told New Era that the completion of Okongo silo’s expansion from 500 tonnes to 4 500 tonnes has brought the total national grain storage capacity to 22 900 tonnes.
AMTA through the National Strategic Food Reserve is currently busy buying grain from the producers, including the green scheme projects, which are the main suppliers to replenish the reserve.
The drought has reduced maize production in the Zambezi, Kavango East and Kavango West regions by 91 percent and reduced milk production in all livestock farming zones.
As a result, 80 percent of farm workers are out of work, while prices of staple food have sharply increased.
At the same time, there has been an increase in human-wildlife conflict.
According to the latest report, compiled by the Office of the Prime Minister and the agriculture ministry, 595 839 people out of the about 730 000 affected need urgent assistance.
The report says about 50% of those who need urgent drought relief food are from the six regions of Omusati (110 388); Ohangwena (101 741); Oshikoto (76 903); Oshana (49 150); Kavango West (47 989); and Kavango East (44 107).
The report titled ‘Namibia Rural Food Security and Livelihood Vulnerability Forecast’ states that government has to fork out more than N$655 million for drought relief until the next financial year.
Of this amount, food alone requires N$308 million, while water intervention programmes need N$242 million, with the rest earmarked for logistics and milling.
Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila on Monday said the government must raise N$655 million for drought relief for the period August 2016 to March 2017.
She said the current drought relief programme, extended from March this year to the end of July, cost government N$90 million.