Windhoek – In response to soaring needs, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) last Friday launched its Southern Africa El Niño Response Plan, which appeals for US$ 109 million (about N$1.627 billion) to assist 3.4 million pastoral, agro-pastoral and smallholder farming households across ten southern African countries.
Among the countries targetted for FAO’s appeal is Namibia, where 729 100 inhabitants are food insecure. The FAO is appealing for an additional US$2.5 million (N$35 million) for Namibia as the country battles with its worst drought in 80 years.
The Namibian government has budgeted N$90 million until March 2017 for drought food aid.
FAO’s appeal is now only 38 percent funded.
To address the scale and magnitude of the crisis, FAO declared Corporate Surge Support for Southern Africa on July 4, to last until February 15, 2017. Food security and agriculture information and analysis are prioritised through support to crop and input assessments, national vulnerability assessment committees and integrated food security phase classification processes.
The FAO strongly recommends that Namibia tends to vegetable seed and fertiliser; community-based seed production; small-scale irrigation; promotion of conservation agriculture; post-harvest training: supplementary feed; livestock destocking; fodder production; rangeland rehabilitation; animal health campaigns; rehabilitation of water points, and restocking.
Support to early warning systems, food security and vulnerability mapping, resilience building and capacity development training for agro-pastoral communities are also high priorities.
“The drought has significantly affected small scale farmers’ livelihoods, with smallholder farmers producing two-thirds below the average maize output and livestock-holding households having lost an estimated 55 100 animals (three-fourths of which were cattle) due to the drought. Pasture and water remain scarce in some areas, threatening the health of surviving livestock. Cereal prices are significantly higher than last year, which were already 20 percent above average, and more households are seeking casual labour to afford their food needs, though fewer opportunities are available,” the report states.
A Namibian regional project is underway, enhancing disaster risk reduction capacity and building resilience through training, and improving access to drought-tolerant food, fodder crop seeds and water for livestock. Further, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, with support from FAO, has been rehabilitating boreholes, and providing training to farmers on conservation agriculture and rangeland management, as well as to community animal health workers.
To strengthen early warning at community, regional and national levels, FAO has provided the Namibia Meteorological Services with an automated weather station. FAO has supported government to finalise its strategy for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaption mainstreaming, and provided support to the conducting of a needs assessment to inform programming.
Drought emergencies have been declared by Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, as well as in the Grand Sud of Madagascar. Mozambique issued a red alert, and eight of South Africa’s nine provinces have been declared drought disaster areas, which account for almost 90 percent of the country’s maize production and are critically important for exports within the region.
The 2015/16 harvest assessments indicate a regional shortfall of nearly 9.3 million tonnes of cereal production. The high regional deficit is driving up staple food prices and constraining the already limited purchasing power of vulnerable families. The situation is already urgent with at least 40 million people projected to be food insecure in the 2016/17 lean season, 22 million of whom require immediate assistance.
In Angola, 756 000 people are food insecure, 1.1 million in Botswana, 680 000 in Lesotho ,1.4 million in Madagascar, 2.3 million in Malawi, 14.3 million in South Africa, 640 000 in Swaziland, 358 500 in Tanzania, 776 000 in Zambia and 4.1 million in Zimbabwe.