After reaching out to 221 drought-stricken farmers and close to 95 000 animals with donations of more than N$500 000, the private emergency drought aid programme of stalwart Summerdown/Steinhausen rancher Henriette le Grange has reached an impasse as the drought situation worsens by the day. Fodder for these farmers are still available from the Grootfontein/Tsumeb areas but sponsors for diesel and trucks have run dry. Two weeks ago, the fund raised N$92 000 by selling street corners in Windhoek and 19 more communal farmers were given more than 800 bales of lucerne and mixed pellets. But Le Grange says no more assistance is forthcoming as all possible avenues have been exhausted. Another fund, created by Carol-Ann Mὅller, ran into the same problems.
They have secured fodder but are still looking for fuel sponsors for their truck running from Grootfontein to Koës.
"Lucerne is still available at N$115 per bale from Grootfontein and Tsumeb but to land it in the south will mean the price shoots up to N$155 per bale and that math just does not make sense if we have to pay for diesel as well," she laments.
The team of le Grange saw some heart-breaking scenes again last week when close to 1 000 bales of Lucerne were delivered as the last batch to 19 down-and-out communal farmers in the Maltahὅhe area. "We made a difference in the
unpleasant lives of these 19 farmers and their families and animals but it is scary to think that we might have reached the bottom of the well with funds drying up.
The initiative collected close to N$500 000 and supplied thousands of bales of Lucerne, feeding pellets and mixed feeds to starving animals.
Devastated farmers who received aid praised the programme called the Namibian Farmers Drought Aid as one of the most successful and commendable efforts ever undertaken to bring instant relief to farmers on their knees now from persistent drought since 2013.
A total of 221 farmers from Keetmanshoop, Grünau, Kὅes, Bethanie, Karasburg, Maltahὅhe and Aroab have benefited significantly from the programme and requests for aid keep pouring in. None of the farmers affected were prepared to go into details about borrowing from financial institutions and their debt out of fear for embarrassing their families and children. All of them agreed that they are in dire need of fodder as well as cash to support their families and pay school fees.
They say animals are dying like flies and with hardly any rain for five years, the earth is scorched and barred and absolutely no grazing is available. They can't move their animals to greener pastures as these simple do not exist and all their neighbours are in exactly the same sinking boat. On top of that, the sheep export scheme has proved a dismal failure and government still has not revised the scheme. "We can smell the abyss," one farmer notes.
The programme raised N$92 000 last week by bringing the plight of these farmers to the capital when individuals and companies bought ten street corners in Windhoek with prices ranging between N$8 500 and N$10 000.
On April 6, popular musicians Brendon Peyper and Adam Tas will perform at the Windhoek High School hall and proceeds will also go to the farmers' fund.
Le Grange says she is extremely pleased that they could reach out to especially the cash-strapped communal and emerging farmers as they are virtually helpless. "Commercial farmers in these areas are also equity-drained and we want to make a difference in their cases as well.
Bu the reality is that everyone is now feeling the pinch of a negative economy and we understand this and remain extremely thankful to all farmers, businesses and individuals who contributed in either cash or supplied free lucerne and mixed feeds as well as pellets."
Le Grange says people who are in a position to contribute can still do so in cash by donating to the Namibia Farmers' Donation Fund. The banking details are Bank Windhoek, Maerua Mall, branch code 483 872 and the account number is