Namibian commercial/communal farmers in ICU … as another possible drought looms

Namibia’s commercial and communal farmers have been thrust in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) as they continue to struggle to unshackle from the previous el-Niño induced drought spell and the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) and Dordabis farmers have resorted to bailing them out through aid.

Although Namibia has received some good rains so far, the reprieve is yet to be felt by farmers in the southern parts of the country.

The climate outlook remains unflattering while fears of a looming devastating drought in the region have flared up, which may spell disaster for the local agriculture sector.

Said the NAU’s spokesperson Erika von Gierszewski, “On initiative of the Dordabis FA, the NAU acted as coordinator of the drought aid project according to which bales of grass, lucerne and other feed have been supplied free of charge to farmers who had no more grazing.”

The union said this drought assistance project started in April 2017 and besides the NAU’s project, there were various individual farmers and donations which were delivered to the farmers directly.

“All role players reached out jointly to farmers and not only NAU members, but also resettlement- and communal farmers received drought aid. A total of 52 freights grass, lucerene and other feed were off-loaded at needy farmers.”

“Besides resettlement farmers, aid was also given to communal farmers in Warmbad and Keetmanshoop to the value of N$110 000 which amount was donated by FNB and Sanlam and we would like to thank the extension offices of the Ministry of Agriculture in Karasburg and Keetmanshoop for their cooperation,” said NAU.

A number of organisations, the Regional Agricultural Union (RAU) as well as regional coodinators have also participated in the aid program.

Since October 2017, Namibia’s rains have been below normal and former Executive Director of the NAU, Sackie Coetzee recently said the country needs at least normal to above normal rainfall this year to avoid potential mayhem in the agric-sector.

The sector is the biggest employer in the country and while it used to hold an estimated 200 000 jobs, 2017 estimates by FNB’s Head of Research Namene Kalili were such that the sector had been left with an estimated 100 000 jobs by June due to the drought situation.

The SADC region’s rainfall during the current cropping season has been mixed so far and a few countries have received average to above average cumulative rainfall, while in several other countries cumulative rainfall has been below-average and erratic. 

According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network moisture deficits and heavy rainfall could have an adverse impact on crops and agricultural activities this year.

Meanwhile, 2017’s El-Niño faded in May after having brought about a crippling drought which impacted crop production severely, spurring inflation and leaving millions in need of food relief.