The Zambezi chief regional officer Regina Ndopu-Lubinda says even though the country received some showers over the past couple of weeks the drought persists.
In an interview with New Era yesterday she said Zambezi residents are busy cultivating and ploughing their fields following recent showers. But she said the region would only determine the effect and impact of the drought once people harvest next year.
The drought has been blamed for the recent increase in smuggled maize meal in Zambezi Region, with residents opting for the illegal products because they are cheaper than locally produced maize meal.
A 25kg bag of maize meal in Zambia costs 80 kwacha (about N$137) and when smuggled into Namibia sells for N$200, which is still cheaper than the about N$250 charged for locally produced maize meal in shops.
According to her, people who are currently ploughing will only harvest around April and May next year.
“Of course there is nothing we have harvested up to now. The drought conditions still apply until we reach harvest time. That’s when we can say whether we have sufficient food or not. But now it continues and people are still on the drought programme in line with what we are getting from the Prime Minister’s Office,” Ndopu-Lubinda said.
The drought relief programme which ended in March this year was extended from March to July this year at a cost of N$90 million.
Thereafter government again extended the programme from August 2016 to March 2017 at a cost of N$600 million.
Further, Ndopu-Lubinda maintained this is the time “when we really need food for our people because they need energy. You cannot plough when you are hungry.”
The country has been hard hit by a dry spell over the past three years, which has caused farmers to destock and affected thousands of people, who have no food security.
Around June this year the disastrous situation saw President Hage Geingob declaring a state of emergency that allows assistance to those affected by drought.
In an attempt to feed people, the government has been administering a drought relief programme, with an estimated over N$900 million spent towards drought relief between April 2015 and March 2016 alone.
This is the second time in three years the government has declared a state of emergency.
In 2013, former President Hifikepunye Pohamba declared an emergency, saying more than 4,000 animals had died and about 300,000 people were affected by drought.