7 June 2019

Namibia's Devastating Drought - Our Strategy So Far

The globe is experiencing unprecedented effects from climate change. Namibia has not been left out to the effects of climate change created by the phenomenon we all know as "El-Nino". The stark new normal of climate change is becoming an ever-apparent reality. Extreme weather patterns such as floods, extensive droughts and even further land degradation has placed Namibia in a precarious position.

Namibia is a semi-arid country, and the rainfall patterns have mostly been erratic. We have noted that for this year's rainy season, we experienced extremely poor rainfall, which subsequently caused considerable delays in the cultivation activities. When we travel the length and breadth of this country, we observe how the vegetation is subdued, the crops that were cultivated failed, and the grazing condition are extremely poor. These conditions are similar in all the regions. It has been widely reported that the year 2019 is the driest year in 90 years, Windhoek measured the lowest rainfall since rain was recorded in 1891.

The household food security is, as a result, affected negatively. Although we can up till now depend on the last year harvest, the food stocks at household levels are depleting whereas there will be no harvest to supplement or add to the existing stocks.

For animals, the grazing conditions deteriorated severely across the country, leaving the livelihood of the animals under severe pressure. Grazing and water availability for livestock also continue to be a problem in many parts of the country, due to late and poor rainfall performance experienced since the beginning of the rainfall season, but also due to lack of perennial water flows.

The recently concluded Food and Nutrition Security Monitoring Assessment conducted biannually since 2016 has consistently indicated that Namibia produces less than 40 percent of the cereals they consume.

Subsequent, on May 6 2019, Dr Hage Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia declared a state of emergency due to poor rainfall and the prevalent drought within the country. 500 000 Namibians face food insecurity and water shortages, within six months an estimated 60 000 head of cattle have starved due to inadequate grazing.

All crop-producing regions are expecting massive reduction in the expected harvest, with cereal production to reduce by 70 to 80 percent in the communal areas and by 15 percent in the commercial areas, below last season's harvest.

The assessment also showed that the whole country is expecting a harvest reduction of at least 53 percent compared to last season's harvest and over 42 percent compared to the 20-year average production. This reduction is largely attributed to the general poor rainfall received during the 2018/2019-rainfall season.

Given the situation as alluded, Cabinet endorsed drought relief interventions valued at N$572,700,000.00 to assist affected food insecure households and drought affected farmers in all fourteen (14) regions.

These interventions are aimed to ensure that no human lives are lost due to lack of food (because of drought), and also to preserve core herds for the drought affected farmers.

The approved interventions are:

a. Food assistance for needy and drought affected;

b. Water tankers;

c. Livestock Marketing Incentives in the drought affected areas;

d. Transport subsidy to and from grazing areas, and transport for fodder to the drought affected farmers especially in communal areas;

e. Support for Lease of grazing for the drought affected;

f. Subsidy for crop farmers.

g. Lick supplements for a core herd of twenty-five (25) cattle and one (1) bull per farmer; and

h. Fodder subsidy for a core herd of twenty-five (25) cattle and one (1) bull per farmer.

i. Fodder / lick subsidy for a core 139 small stock plus a breeding male.

The Drought Response Plan is forwarded by the Right Honourable Prime Minister. It provides a background to the current drought situation as well as the overall objectives of the Plan. It lays out the coordination strategy and outlines the key sectors activated for implementing drought interventions as well as the funds required. The Response Plan also provides for an implementation plan to ensure that action to the affected is taken in a timely manner. To expedite action contact details of those in charge are provided. The Plan also indicates the gaps where assistance can be directed in terms of food, water and fodder.

* Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah is Namibia's Minister of International Relations and Cooperation and the country's Deputy Prime Minister. She delivered these remarks yesterday during a meeting with members of the diplomatic corps, on Namibia's needs for drought relief.

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