Namibia’s food security situation is significantly deteriorating as a result of highly unfavourable agricultural production during the 2022/2023 cropping season.
As a result of this, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform says 234,000 people faced hunger between April and August 2023.
The second Crop and Household Food Security Monitoring Assessment (post-harvest) in the seven major communal crop-producing regions from 08th May to 6th June 2023, revealed.
It has been observed that the majority of crop farmers have experienced crop failure, which has consequently severely impeded their ability to replenish their food reserves.
It has been observed the majority of crop farmers have experienced crop failure, which consequently severely impeded their ability to replenish their food reserves.
A considerable number of households in the key communal crop-producing regions have reportedly depleted their harvest from the previous season, and are now relying for sustenance mainly on the market and drought relief food in some regions.
The Ministry’s spokesperson, JonaMusheko, told The Villager that most of the communal farmers were done with harvesting. The Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA) is still busy buying grains from farmers, especially from the Green Schemes, he said.
“We are putting all the necessary arrangements in place so we make sure that we make arrangements for all the households that might be affected due to food insecurity,” Musheko said.
He further said based on the reports, interventions are needed to improve the next harvesting season.
Looking at the past ten years, he pointed out, the harvest collectively as a country has been increasing in a range of very limited metric tonnes per year.
He further added the issue of climate change has also impacted the rainfall patterns where they have been experiencing sporadic rainfalls as well as late rain and also a short period of rainfall.
“That means we need to speed up our cultivation period in terms of utilisingmechanised machinery,” he said.
He added that government, through the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Agriculture, has already begun with interventions in terms of drought relief and household food security at the regional level.
According to the Agriculture Ministry’s latest report, the food security situation tends to improve starting from March as seasonal crops like squash, melons, and legumes become ready for consumption.
However, the current drought conditions have resulted in limited availability of these crops. In the Zambezi region, the household food security situation has not seen substantial improvement despite the recent harvest. Farmers reported a meagre harvest, which is expected to only sustain households until September 2023.
Farmers in this region normally sell most of their harvest and use the earnings to purchase additional food and other necessities.
However, due to the poor harvest this year, farmers noted that there is not much surplus to sell, and the harvest is primarily intended for household consumption.
The situation in the Kavango East and Kavango West regions are similar, as both regions have experienced a disappointing harvest whereby some farmers did not harvest anything at all, compared to the previous season.
In the northern central regions of Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana, and Oshikoto, the situation regarding household food security is worsening.
The majority of households have experienced a significantly poor harvest this season which is estimated to last only for a period of two to three months from the harvesting period. Households indicated that they have depleted last year’s grain reserves and are now highly dependent on the market for food access.
The household food security situation in southern, eastern and central Namibia is also poor as a result of the poor agricultural season.
As of 31 July, the National Strategic Food Reserves (NSFR) has a stock of 3,560.07MT of grains which is only 16% of the silos’ total holding capacity of 22 900MT.
This consists of 1,442.50MT of white maize in the KatimaMulilo silo, 948.79MT of white maize in the Rundu silo, 420.51MT of white maize in the Tsandi silo, and 748.27MT of pearl millet in the Okongo silo.
At the time of this report, the Omuthiya’s silo was empty.
Since the start of the 2022/2023 rainfall season, the country received below normal rainfall, with a considerable delay in the onset.
The report explained that most parts of the country only received productive rainfall in January.
In addition to sporadic and insufficient rainfall patterns that have dominated the season, the country noted severe and prolonged dry spells in December, February, March and April, which led to poor agricultural production and pasture establishment.
The crop-producing regions in the communal areas have recorded a significant decline in the crop harvest, contributing only about 20% to the national cereal production.
The poor crop growing conditions were seen in the forms of delayed onset of the rainfall season, erratic rainfall patterns and prolonged dry spells, the assessment revealed.
On the contrary, the commercial area alone witnessed an improvement in the harvest, contributing about 80% to the national cereal production.
The report has also highlighted that the situation is not better when it comes to grazing condition either.
As in most parts of the country, the grazing conditions have significantly become limited, which is largely attributed to poor rainfall conditions and dry spells which have dominated the 2022/2023 rainfall season.
While the overall water supply situation is a major concern in many areas of the county, due to poor rainfall received for the season.
As such, most water catchment areas have already dried up as they did not receive enough water inflow.
The researchers have advised government to take up various interventions.
Government, they said, should continue to provide drought relief in Kunene and for it to provide full drought relief to the other eight regions, including the entire Omusati and Erongoregions.
Community leaders should, they said, continue identifying the food insecure households intheir localities.
In the medium various ministries such as the Tourism and Environment Ministry were advised to limit the number of elephants in certain conversations, while the Works and Transport ministry was tasked to provide more reliable weather forecasting.
They also recommended for Regional Councils to establish Regional Emergency Disaster Funds to strengthenthe availability of resources.