by Ndanki Kahiurika, by Adam Hartman, by Tuyeimo Haidula, by Luqman Cloete
SEVERAL regional governors have described the current drought as the worst in recent times, with the cropping regions of Zambezi, Kavango East, Kavango West, Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena and Oshikoto being the hardest-hit.
- NDANKI KAHIURIKA,
TUYEIMO HAIDULA, ADAM
HARTMAN and LUQMAN
President Hage Geingob declared the drought a state of emergency on Monday, and the government has set aside N$570 million for drought relief.
Prime Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila yesterday met regional governors in Windhoek to discuss how to roll out the drought relief aid.
The prime minister told the governors that N$10 million of the N$570 million is for delivering water to affected communities, while N$11,4 million has been set aside for drilling and rehabilitating boreholes.
Logistics and the transportation of food will cost N$36 million, while marketing incentives, the leasing of grazing, and transport would cost N$31,3 million; lick supplements for the core herd will cost N$150 million; and fodder subsidies will take up N$140 million. Certified crop production for the next season would cost N$10 million.
"Given the extent of the drought, these interventions will require the support of all Namibians, and we must avoid delays and wastages to safeguard our people who are affected as well as their livestock," the prime minister stated.
The governors who spoke to The Namibian said this drought is worse than that of 2013 and 2016.
Former president Hifikepunye Pohamba declared the 2013 drought an emergency, while Geingob also declared the 2016 drought a national disaster.
Speaking to The Namibian on Wednesday, Erongo governor Cleophas Mutjavikua described the situation as one of the worst as farmers have nowhere to go for grazing.
"Before now, those farmers would seek refuge in places like Otjiwarongo, Otjinene or Okamatapati. Now, farmers in those areas have also moved in search of grazing. The declaration is welcomed because now it would means assistance for farmers," he added.
Mutjavikua urged the land reform ministry to suspend the resettlement programme this year, and use the targeted farms for relief grazing instead.
Omusati governor Henock Kankoshi said the region had received such poor rain that animals have no grazing, while farmers who grew mahangu did not harvest anything.
"This drought is the worst in memory. I cannot compare this one to the other two. At least, back then we had some rain and people harvested something. I, however, do not want people to panic. Things will be alright," he reasoned.
Kavango West governor Sirkka Ausiku said what aggravated the situation in her region was the human-wildlife conflict, where elephants were eating up the few crops that had survived the drought.
"We have some rain here and there, which means there is some grazing, but the elephants are worsening the situation. These elephants started becoming a problem around 2015," said Ausiku.
The chairperson of the Omusati Regional Council, who is also the chairperson of the Disaster Risk Management Committee in the region, Modestus Amutse, yesterday stated that all 12 constituencies in the Omusati region have each registered over 800 households for the drought relief programme.
He said Okalongo tops the list with over 1 000 households which have registered. He added that the final number would only be available as from today when his office receives the list from the different traditional leaders.
Amutse said the region has also started preparing the drought emergency budget.
"We depend highly on the drought budget set aside by the government. Due to the low rainfall, even the dams are dry. Most people will depend on canals. We are negotiating with NamWater to open the Etakaya-Uuvudhiya canal and the Oshikuku-Elim canal for the drought period," he continued.
Although he said there are pipelines in some areas, there is not sufficient pressure to pump water, hence the appeal to the agriculture ministry to support the affected communities.
Amutse said people in some areas were still struggling to secure water for their livestock. Many are forced to give their livestock tap water, thus drastically increasing water bills.
"We are also encouraging people to assist one another. If you have leftover mahangu, please share it with your neighbours," he appealed.
Amutse said the region will hold a meeting next week to compile the final list of water points for both people and animals.
Ongwediva constituency councillor Andreas Utoni noted that although they have not yet started the registration process, he fears that this year would be the worst.
"In previous years, we at least had a bit of rainfall, and if one was a good farmer and had planted on time, they could get something out of it. This year, we got zero rainfall, so communities will need assistance," Utoni said.
//Kharas region's Karasburg West constituency councillor, Paulus Efraim, yesterday said his office was yet to distribute drought relief food to needy residents.
He could also not say how many drought-stricken people had benefited from the food handouts last year.
According to him, regional constituencies do not have budgets for the purchase of drought relief food, and thus rely on the //Kharas Regional Council to supply them with handouts to cater for those affected.
Chief regional officer for Erongo, Ludumilla Doëses said they had identified 1 617 people who benefited from two consignments - one of over 3 000 bags of maize, and another of close to 10 000 bags between January and March.