Windhoek — The household food security situation continues to weaken and grazing continues to deteriorate in various parts of the country as drought conditions strengthen.
Autumn has arrived with very little hope of late rains in March to bring last-minute relief to dryland crop producers. A massive effort this year by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) to distribute hundreds of thousands of seeds to the crop-producing regions in the north was partially defeated by the absence of good rains in the planting season and lack of follow-up rains after seeds were planted.
According to public relations officer of the MAWF Margaret Kalo, 100 000 kg of free maize seeds were sent to the agricultural development centres (ADCs), while 110 000 kg of free mahangu seeds for drought relief were also delivered to agricultural scientific officers in the ADCs. This was topped off by 20 000 kg of free cowpea seeds for distribution in all regions.
Most households have long ago depleted their last season's poor harvest. A delay in the start of the 2015/2016 rainfall season worsened the situation, and while basic inputs and services in most communal crop producing regions were reasonable enough to kickstart the season, the detrimental effects of drought on grazing and water resources, and consequently on livestock body conditions, have reached worrying levels.
According to the Agricultural Inputs and Household Food Security Monitoring Assessment, released recently by the National Early Warning and Food Information Unit, conditions continue to deteriorate as the regions noted a considerable delay in the onset and a general poor performance of the 2015/2016 rainfall season.
Free and subsidised seed were reported to be available on time and in sufficient supply to the northeastern regions. However, the north central regions received their first consignments of free seeds, which were not enough and had not received subsidised seed and fertiliser by last December.
Households are reported to be dependent on the market and the government drought relief food programme for food access, as market purchases were depleted before the end of last year.
Households noted that drought relief food takes too long to reach targeted households, and even when it arrives it is only given to certain people, considered to be in desperate need of food assistance.
In the northern communal crop producing regions, household food security is said to have weakened significantly, as many households are dependent on the market and drought relief for food access.
Meanwhile, the government has extended and broadened last year's drought food relief programme to cover all households affected by drought. This has been running from August 2015 and is due to end this month, where after it will be revised.
In addition, social protection measures by the government remain in place and these include support for orphans and vulnerable children, emergency food assistance to San communities, school feeding programmes, old age pensions and war veteran grants.
Pasture conditions continue to deteriorate in various parts of the country as the drought conditions strengthen. Many farmers, especially in the north central, northwest, central and the southern parts of the country are reported to have lost many of their livestock to drought.
In the Zambezi Region pasture conditions are between poor and fair along the riverside and very poor to poor in the inland. The four north central regions also reported poor grazing conditions.
In the Kunene Region the grazing condition is extremely poor, as since 2012 this area has not yet received significant rainfall. In the central parts of the country, grazing has deteriorated in both communal and commercial areas of the Otjozondjupa Region. The situation is said to be worsening in the Ovitoto area of the Omatako constituency.
Water supply, particularly for the livestock consumption, is poor and many boreholes' yield has dropped. In the Omaheke Region, grazing was reported to have been depleted in the communal areas, but slightly better in commercial areas. Livestock are weak and cases of death due to drought were reported.
Water supply is mainly through boreholes, but the yield is low, resulting in constant breakdowns of the boreholes. In the Erongo Region grazing conditions are very poor in most areas, with Omatjete in the Daures Constituency the hardest hit.
Water supply is very poor as some boreholes are reportedly yielding low or salty water and in some areas, while some boreholes have dried up.
In the southern regions, poor grazing conditions continue to be reported in the /Karas, as about 80% to 90% of the grazing has been depleted. The situation is reported to be worse in the communal areas. Livestock and game animals are dying due to the current drought.
Water supply is poor, as many boreholes are either yielding low or have dried up. In the Hardap Region grazing condition have reached a critical stage, where many small and large stocks have died due to severe drought conditions this year. The situation is said to be worse in Gibeon, Goxas, east and northeast of Aranos, as well as Maltahὅhe areas.
Most regions reported that livestock body conditions are weakening and range between poor to very poor (emaciation).