Windhoek – As Namibian farmers pin their hopes on a good rainy season, the harsh reality on the ground is that the drought has reached its most critical stage countrywide and government has to supply 895 839 people with food.
This up from 415 900 in 2014/15. With no guarantees of an above average rainy season, the focus remains on climate change and the possibility of more severe droughts in the future. These warnings echoed through conference halls such as at the historic Africa Drought Conference in Windhoek, and the 70th annual congress of the Namibian Agricultural Union (NAU) about a month ago. One of the many leaders who have been hoping that these warnings are not hollow but that Namibians and all Africans take the lessons from these various conferences seriously and apply them to the letter in the new year, is Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Netumbo Ndandi-Ndaitwah.
She is concerned about increasing food security in many parts of Africa due to climate change, including Namibia that is prone to severe droughts and even floods in the years to come.
This led to President Hage Geingob declaring a state of emergency in June this year.
The Africa Drought Conference has reinforced the understanding that coordinated joint planning and partnerships, which enable the much-needed shift from typical responses to prevention, are required. Everyone would prefer the building of greater resilience to climate stress and disasters compared to the current unsustainable reliance on government relief.
The time to make it happen is now. And, hopefully, the role players will keep talking and listening. This will build capital based on trust and a common vision of a shared future.
Namibian farmers have in the last decade been strained under extended droughts and sometimes intense flooding.
Crop failures and livestock deaths due to drought and climate change are on the increase and this leads to price increases in basic food commodities such as Namibia has been experiencing since the beginning of the year with double-digit increases since this March.
It is encouraging that the government has allocated more than 11 percent of this year’s budget to agriculture and ministries that support the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry. The need for pro-active response to climate change has been stressed over and over and the Africa Drought Conference laid the foundations for an African drought mechanism.
With the Harambee Prosperity Plan, Geingob has declared war on poverty and Namibia will also have to declare war on drought. A National Drought Management Policy and Strategy must be put in place to enhance resilience. This was the view of most speakers at the drought conference, with emphasis on the fact that early warning systems must be improved in the whole of Africa.
There is consensus that agriculture should be the number one priority in any drought management strategy. A plan that does not fully integrate agriculture is doomed. The needs and shortcomings for Namibia to improve its resilience to droughts have been identified. As has the role of drought-resistant crops, adaptive strategies for drought-affected rural communities, the developing of safety nets and the possibility of establishing a global trust fund for drought events.
Environment minister Pohamba Shifeta, summed it up the best earlier this year when he told the National Assembly that it is no longer acceptable for Namibians to be caught unawares by droughts, as they are set to become even more frequent.
Currently, most African countries remain inadequately prepared to cope with and adapt to droughts, an ever more frequent event in the wake of climate change. About 23 million people in ten sub-Saharan countries require immediate humanitarian aid to cope with the effects of the drought.
These countries include Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, which are all members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which has 15 member states. With ten member states in dire need of assistance, SADC has now appealed to international donors for US$2.4 billion to support efforts to bring relief to drought-affected communities. The drought has caused crop failure and poor harvests, with about nine million tonnes production shortfall in the region.
According to the SADC Regional Humanitarian Appeal launched in July, about 640 000 livestock died as a result of the drought in Botswana, Swaziland, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe due to lack of grazing, lack of water and disease outbreaks. In Namibia, about N$655 million is needed for drought aid until March 2017.