24 April 2018

Namibia: Late Rains Good, Bad News for Crop Farmers

Windhoek — The current good rains have come too late for most communal farmers in the northern crop-farming areas but most disappointed are farmers in the Kunene Region who have lost seeds due to too much water.

Crop production expert, Venaune Hepute, was quoted as saying too much water during late rainy seasons, such as what the country has been experiencing lately, negatively affects crop farmers. The situation is a bitter blow for the crop farmers, as they have not been planting for the past seven to eight years due to the devastating drought, Hepute says. They are guaranteed losses after heavy rains washed away seeds.

In the Omusati Region and environs, the situation looks better with planted white maize now in full seed and blossoming in some areas due to the late rains. Many of them waited till the last moment to plant and in Kunene, many disappointed farmers now pin their hopes on seeds they have planted at the last minute to bear fruit or vegetables. The seeds planted earlier have been suffocated by water, translating into a loss for them.

One such producer is cattle farmer Nikita Mukuaruuze, who engages in small-scale crop production in Kunene and has lost all the seeds he planted earlier because of the recent rains. Treasurer-general of the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU), Amon Kapi, echoes Mukuaruuze and Hepute's sentiments that farmers who planted earlier lost everything to the rain. Hepute urges weather forecast services in Namibia to give early warnings to the entire country, including farmers, to avoid losses.

"Weather forecasting and predictions must be revealed to local farmers at an early stage to allow them to plan properly," he suggests.

Farmers should also be made aware in advance of when it will rain, for how long it will rain, and how much rain would be received, says Hepute, adding that this will help farmers to plant accordingly, and they will know what crops to plant surviving the rainy season.

"Farmers' unions should also equip farmers with knowledge on what crops to plant during which rainy season," he adds.

A season such as the recent one, which Hepute describes as short, will be good for farmers to plant cowpeas, which can adapt easily to the weather.

Meanwhile, livestock, and crop and vegetable farmers in the Otjiwarongo district are thrilled with the good rainfalls received recently. More than 100 millimetres were recorded in March, and since then rain gauges had to be constantly emptied, as the rains kept pouring.

This January and February only 27 mm and 59 mm was recorded in the Otjiwarongo district, compared to more than 100 mm in March alone, and some 55 mm so far in April.

Goat and cattle farmer, Ludwig Tjirare, and many others in the district, reported weight gains in livestock in March alone as grass shot up to above knee level in some areas of the Otjozondjupa rangelands.

Farmers in this cattle-rich region are now very optimistic that their animals will not only survive, but will reach their full mass potential. These producers own some of the country's best cattle and they all have been very worried since late 2017 when the rainy season got off to a very bad, and the rains stayed away until February. Crop farmers are also elated about the late rains. Crop and vegetable farmer at the Otjiveg fields, Hendrick Morosi, said he is excited about the rains received in the area so far, especially after the drought experienced in 2013, 2014 and 2015. It had been difficult for his maize crop, sweet potatoes and sunflower to grow well and fig trees to bear fruit during the past three years, he noted. Now he expects a bumper harvest at the end of April. Owner of the TW Tulongeni Fruit and Vegetable field, Werner Hamukwaya, says the rainfall has restored hope for a good harvest from his maize field, orange trees and a variety of vegetables.

Namibia

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