Improvement noted in rainfall conditions

According to the crop prospects and food security situation report, despite a delay in the onset of the 2016/2017 rainfall season which affected most parts of the country, rainfall conditions have improved significantly, resulting in good and above normal rainfall received in the greater part of the country.

Farmers reported that, productive rainfall was only realised as from ends of November to early December as opposed to a normal start of the season in early November. It was further reported that, some parts of the country especially the north central, northwest and southeast were affected by poor rainfall performance in the first half of the season stretching to early February.

Nonetheless, the situation is reported to have improved considerably as from mid-February. As a result, many farmers are looking forward to a good agricultural production which would bring some reliefs and significant improvement and recovery to the ailing agricultural production which was hit by devastating drought conditions for the past two successive seasons. However, the north east, particularly the Zambezi region have suffered excessive rainfall and floods resulting in some crop fields flooded.

Furthermore, the north central regions especially Omusati, Oshana, western part of Ohangwena and the extreme southwestern part of Oshikoto are reported to have been affected by flood water which came as a result of heavy rains received in the southern part of Angola. These reports were corroborated by Namibia Meteorological Services report which depicts a trend of above normal rainfall received, relative to normal. Based on the assessment in the northern major communal crop producing regions, it was noted that most parts of these regions received good to very good rainfall in December to February, resulting in good crop germinations.

Good rainfall did not only impact positively on the agricultural production, but also improved water supply, particularly for the livestock that are heavily dependent on the surface/rainfall water for consumption. Most water catchments such as earth dams, ponds, Iishana, and so forth are either full or has enough water to sustain livestock and human consumption to the next rainfall season. Following good rainfall reported in most parts of the country and on the basis of good crop germinations reported all the crop producing regions (subsistence and commercial) are expecting an improvement in crop harvest this season.

Provisional crop estimates indicated a considerable improvement in the expected harvest which is significantly better by far than last season’s harvest in all the regions and above average production in most areas. Zambezi, Oshana and Oshikoto regions as well as the commercial area recorded an improvement in the expected harvest which is much better than last season and above the average the production. However, Ohangwena, Omusati, Kavango East and Kavango West regions also noted an improvement in the expected harvest which is better than last season but still below average of production. The aggregate cereal estimates showed that, the country is expecting an increase of at least 90% of last season’s harvest and 20% above the av erage production. Fig 4, 5, 6, 7 8 and 9 below shows some of the crop field images in the northern communal crop producing regions.

Following the poor agricultural production which was caused by severe drought conditions in the past two consecutive seasons, household food security continued to weaken in various parts of the regions as most households are reported to have depleted their last season’s harvest and now dependent mainly on the market and government Drought Relief Food Programme for food access. According to households interviewed in the northern major communal crop producing regions, last seasons’ harvest which were being supplemented with the market purchases only lasted at most August last year, leaving most households completely dependent on the market and or the government Drought Relief Food Programme for food access.

However, the situation is expected to improve significantly, given the good prospects in the expected agricultural production. In particular, household food security in the crop growing regions is expected to improve as from mid-March this year, when seasonal fresh produce such as green maize, cowpeas, Bambara nuts, squashes, etc. would be available and ready for consumption till the main harvest in May. Provisional crop (cereal) estimates for the 2016/2017 cropping season indicated a significant improvement in the expected harvest which is above the average production and significantly higher than last season.

Moreover, harvest prospects for non-cereals which are also part and parcel of household food security were also reported to be very good and much better than last season. This improvement is expected to bring the much-needed relief to the ailing household food security. The Drought Relief Food Programme from the government has been in existence since April 2015 and is set to end in March 2017.

The programme target households which are critically affected by drought especially those with no other means of livelihood other than agriculture. However, households in the northern communal crop producing regions where the assessment was conducted argued that the drought relief food is insufficient and takes too long to reach them.