FOOD security in Namibia are severely compromised due to the raging drought that has led to the death of a catastrophic number of livestock across the country while most crop farmers were unable to plant, leading to a low production yield for the 2018/2019 season.
Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Alpheus !Naruseb said the drought has negatively affected farmers and the Namibia’s production level.
He made these remarks while addressing the opening of the Agricultural Outlook Conference at the Safari Hotel and Conference Centre in the Capital.
!Naruseb said a catastrophic number of livestock died across the country and some crop farmers did not plant, leading to a low production yield for the 2018/2019 season severely compromising food security.
In an effort to help the farmers, Government availed N$572.5 million for drought relief to render food assistance, water tanks, livestock management incentives, transport subsidy to and from grazing areas, transport of fodder, lease of grazing, subsidy to crop farmers, lick supplements and a fodder subsidy.
“The question, however, still lingers in our minds what will happen after the drought, if ever there will be an aftermath? Whether or not the drought will come to an end in Namibia, we don’t know, thus, a challenging road lies ahead for farmers,” !Naruseb said.
Farmers are heavily in debt and under cash flow pressure while dam levels are low and are affecting production at irrigation projects.
To add to that, farmers have also reduced their livestock and they are expected to restart with core breeding herd, but with very poor rangeland conditions, which are not conducive for efficient production and productivity.
“Climate change is upon us as we are experiencing unusually high temperatures, thus, high evaporation rates,” noted !Naruseb, adding that all of these challenges are threatening the country’s food security both at household and national level, the Strategic Food Reserves, as well as 70% of the population that depend directly and indirectly on agriculture.
“Increased productivity and growth in the agriculture and food sector have the capacity to achieve economic growth, reduce poverty, improve the livelihoods of rural communities, curb rural to urban migration and create multiple job opportunities in the rest of the value chain,” he explained, ading “We need to develop short-term strategies, but with a long-term view, in order to manage events such as drought better in the future, and ensure a sustainable agricultural sector. Strategies can include, providing farmers with supportive interest rates to reduce debt payments, but with the commitment from farmers that they will honour their payment agreements.”
Another strategy can focus on recovering rangeland and perhaps providing farmers with a support scheme to restore the balance between grass and bush.
!Naruseb lastly noted that they need to farm with crops that are drought resistant, incorporate and adapt climate smart agriculture in farming activities and planning.
Consequently, there is a need to improve the 4.8% national budget allocation to 10% to meet the Malabo Declaration commitment.
“It is time to think differently, but yet smart because business as usual is a foregone approach,” he concluded.