4 February 2013

Namibia: Extended Dry Spell Worries Farmers

Photo: Chris Simpson/IRIN
Farmers are concerned about the survival of their livestock due to the poor rainfall (file photo).

Oshakati — Many farmers in the Oshana and Omusati regions are worried because of the lack of rain in the area.

These same areas are also tormented by armyworms since mid-January.

"We are not projecting any harvests. All we foresee is hunger and starvation," said 70-year-old Tuyenikelao Fikameni. Fikameni, a resident of the village of Okatana, said last year this time, her mahangu field was fully cultivated and she was about to harvest fresh beans and calabash, however at present not even a quarter of the field has been cultivated and all the crops she planted are drying up.

She says she is hesitant to weed part of her cultivated field for fear that the little mahangu that she has cultivated would be destroyed by the armyworms.

"If you weed the area, armyworms will feed on the crops, but if the crops are among the grass maybe it would be difficult for armyworms to spot them. I'm not sure that it will work, but I'm simply hoping that it would. I'm just regretting that I spent money to cultivate this mahangu field. If i knew that it would not rain, I could have spent that money on buying mahangu grain," said Fikameni.

Jacobina Shilunga, a villager from Ekuku, said harvest projections for this year look very bad. Shilunga and other villagers that have spoken to New Era said even if it does not rain, they are not giving up just yet.

Shilunga, an unemployed single mother of six, says all her children are attending school ranging from primary school to institutions of higher learning and she does not receive any support from the government. She relies solely on her mahangu field to make a living and have her children schooled.

"If we give up now, government will not take us seriously. You never know, maybe government officials will come to our homes or they will read in the newspapers and get to know that we are not working. They will think that we are lazy and they may not be interested in assisting us with food. After all I am not God, maybe it will rain again, you never know," said Shilunga.

A field extension worker in the Omusati Region who spoke on condition of anonymity, since she is not authorised to speak to the media, said the prospects for a good harvest this year appear remote based on assessments carried out on some mahangu fields in the region.

"It has not rained for four weeks, and if you compare the cultivation pace of last year and this year, you will notice a major difference. By the beginning of February last year we had nice green crops and most of our farmers were already done cultivating, including weeding. But now we just have bigger untouched pieces of mahangu fields and the crops that were cultivated are eaten up by armyworms, it is a sad situation," she said.

New Era could not get official comment from the Ministry of Agriculture Water and Forestry since most officials in the region are busy with assessments in the north and northeastern parts oif the region. Once the assessments are completed a report will be compiled.

The report will only be released in March according to sources in the Ministry of Agriculture Water and Forestry.

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