Namibia: A Farmer's Plight Amid the Drought

Parched earth in a drought (file photo)

A farmer's plight amid the drought

News - Agriculture | 2019-05-28

by Ruth Kamwi

AFTER losing 20 of his 40 head of cattle, a farmer from northern Namibia is appealing for assistance to save the remainder of his herd in the face of the intense drought across the country.

Immanuel Kasemba, a small-scale farmer near Omaruru's Omatjete area with seven years' experience, told The Namibian last week that he was forced to take on an additional job at Swakopmund to make ends meet. This was after he lost 16 cows to the drought in 12 months.

In addition to losing the 16, the farmer also had to sell four to pay an outstanding debt, as well as buy medicine for the remaining herd.

"There is water in the area, but there's barely any grass. A few weeks ago, I took leave, and asked my manager for a loan of N$3 200 to buy things, the necessary things to save my herd. In my herd of 20 animals, I have five calves whose mothers do not have milk due to malnutrition," Kasemba explained his plight.

He also tried selling a calf, but the highest offer he received for the animal was a measly N$450.

Telling this newspaper of the expenses he has to foot, Kasemba said he has to buy milk powder for the calves, which costs N$975 per bag and lasts for about a month.

"Then there is sapona aerosol for wounds, costing N$130, Readline dip for N$220, tetra eye powder and Terramycin, which costs N$53 for 20ml," he explained.

"I know the government has money set aside to assist the farming community during this terrible drought. My only goal is to see my animals through until, hopefully, it rains again. But there are eight dry months ahead of us before that possibility", he continued.

Kasemba's plight mirrors the struggle many livestock farmers afflicted by the drought have to face.

SOLUTIONS

The Agricultural Bank of Namibia says there has been an increase in new loan applications from farmers, and a resultant growth in the loan book lately.

"We have received a good number of enquiries since the announcement of the drought relief intervention by the bank," said the bank's marketing officer, Margareth /Keis.

The bank offers a variety of products that cover the needs of all farmers, ranging from communal to commercial farmers.

"The client needs to visit any of the offices in Windhoek, at Mariental, Gobabis, Otjiwarongo, Oshakati, Rundu and Katima Mulilo, where a sales consultant will gladly engage him/her, and advise on the possible financial solution tailored for his/her circumstances".

"The bank has introduced a two-pronged approach to drought relief to assist farmers. The first is payment relief, where a client can receive a payment relief on arrears if he/she pays 45% on the outstanding arrears.

"The remainder of the 55% of the arrears is then capitalised, the client is delisted, and the loan term is extended by an additional two years," /Keis explained.

Furthermore, clients with instalments due until 31 March 2020 can also benefit from the drought relief scheme by paying only 60% of the instalment due, and the remaining 40% will be capitalised, and the loan term extended by two years.

Meanwhile, the agriculture ministry's spokesperson, Margaret Kalo, said application forms for government-funded drought relief assistance are available countrywide. Farmers from all 14 regions can now thus apply for drought relief assistance.

"Drought relief application forms can be completed at all agricultural development centres in their respective regions, and agricultural officials will assist farmers to complete the forms correctly," she stated, adding that "farmers must note that only transactions initiated from 1 April 2019 will qualify".

The agriculture ministry is assisting farmers in the areas of marketing incentive schemes, where farmers will receive N$400 as a marketing incentive per large stock unit (cattle) and N$80 per small stock unit (goats and sheep).

The ministry will also subsidise a maximum of 10x50kg bags of lick supplements as well as 20kg bales of fodder, to the most vulnerable farmers. "Only farmers with a maximum of 26 large stock units will qualify," Kalo said.

Farmers with more than 26 large stock units will qualify for the licks and fodder subsidy to a maximum of 10x50kg bags subsided to a maximum of N$150 per bag and 10x20kg bales of fodder subsidy at a maximum of N$50 per bale.

Kalo added that all farmers who lease grazing land will qualify for support if they provide supportive documents, including an animal movement permit, cattle movement notice, written permission from a traditional leader and a short-term lease agreement.

The drought assistance measures will last until the situation is officially declared normal, or until the budget is depleted, whichever comes first, Kalo said.

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