NAMIBIAN National Farmers Union president Jason Emvula yesterday welcomed president Hage Geingob's declaration of the drought as a state of emergency.
Geingob officially declared a state of emergency as of yesterday due to the ongoing drought, while the government has set aside N$480 million for relief.
This is the fifth time in six years that the government has declared a state of emergency. In 2013, former president Hifikepunye Pohamba declared an emergency, saying more than 4 000 animals had died and about 300 000 people were affected by the drought.
Emvula said the union has been trying for months to get the government to declare the drought a state of emergency. He said authorities should open the abattoirs at Eenhana and Katima Mulilo to provide farmers with opportunities to reduce their livestock.
This has presented a challenge for farmers, as they are unable to move most of the animals due to their frail condition.
He confirmed that six head of cattle had died at Oponona between Saturday and yesterday.
"One cow was trying to give birth, but it did not have enough energy, and it died there. The calve could also not be saved. Now the situation has become acute and critical that there is not much to do but to destock," Emvula said.
Emvula said he has spoken to the farmers and those who were not willing to sell in the past are now calling him to ask where and when they can sell their cattle.
"We have to look for the outside market if the abattoir cannot accommodate everyone -- even SADC countries which are willing to take our cattle. The only option we have left is to get the market immediately," he said.
Emvula also appealed to big retailers to stop importing meat and consider buying from local farmers should they meet standards.
The Namibian paid a second visit to Lake Oponona, the largest water body in the Cuvelai basin, about 60 kilometres south of Oshakati, where farmers and livestock face difficult times.
The lake is drying up, leaving the 2 600 livestock that depended on it to find alternative water sources further north.
The Namibian last month reported that 63 712 livestock died as a result of the persistent drought since October last year.
The agriculture ministry released the report as a follow-up on food security on 4 April 2019, which assessed the crops' prospects and livestock situation for 2019 countrywide.
The hardest hit is Kunene North and the Erongo regions, which both lost 12 200 and 11 800 head of cattle, goats and sheep, respectively.
They are followed by the Ohangwena and Otjozondjupa regions which both lost more than 4 700 cattle, sheep and goats during the six months.
The Omaheke, Omusati and Oshana regions each lost around 2 500 livestock, while the Kunene South, Khomas and Oshikoto regions combined lost about 1 266 livestock.