12 June 2018

Namibia: Farmers Urged to Critically Look At Their Rangelands

Windhoek — Farmers must evaluate their rangelands critically and take marketing decisions in time in view of the current below normal conditions despite late rains in March and April.

This was recommended by the Namibian Agricultural Union (NAU) at last week's executive council meeting. Regional representatives gave feedback about the current farming conditions. The rain received during March and April improved the rangeland conditions, but the rain received was however erratic and certain places still have critical drought conditions.

The fear of another drought has subsided but the late rains came too late for most communal and livestock farmers in the northern crop farming areas and many commercial farmers, but farmers in the Kunene Region who have lost seeds due to too much water are mostly disappointed.

Crop production expert Venaune Hepute was quoted as saying that too much water during the late rainy season, such as what the country experienced up to April, negatively affects crop farmers.

The situation is a bitter blow for crop farmers as they have not been planting for the past seven to eight years due to the devastating drought, he said. 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 waited till the last moment to plant.

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 farmers planted earlier have been drowned by water, translating into a loss for them.

One such a producer is cattle farmer Nikita Mukuaruuze, who is engaged in small-scale crop production in Kunene, who lost all the seeds he had planted earlier because of the recent rains. A season such as the recent one, which Hepute described as of a short duration variety, will be good for farmers to plant cowpeas, which can adapt easily to the weather.

But things are looking up in the maize triangle between Grootfontein, Tsumeb and Otavi, where late rains boosted growth somewhat. It is expected that the area will make a healthy contribution of some 31,000 tonnes to the expected total harvest of about 52,000 tonnes of the staple diet of most Namibians this season.

Producers planted only half of the somewhat 10,000 hectares available in the maize triangle due to sporadic and erratic rainfall since the planting season started at the end of last year.

Producers in the Summerdown area also reached their most critical stage of the current season in late January when insufficient rains kept planting to a minimum. Meanwhile, livestock and crop and vegetable farmers in the Otjiwarongo district are thrilled with the good late rain.

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 start 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, said the rainfall had restored hope for a good harvest from his maize field, orange trees and the variety of vegetables.

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