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Reaching the end of the line

Reaching the end of the line

Gert Jacobie

WITH only a feigned hope of early rains according to medium and long term forecasts, many farmers have reached the end of their tether with the current drought.
From the side of government, where pressure to help farmers in their darkest hour is piling up, nothing much is forthcoming, says Mr. Gerhardus Nel of the farms Guruchas and Deurstamp, about 60 kilometres east of Keetmanshoop in the Karas Region.
He was walking along camp fences when Informanté caught up with him this weekend. The few cattle and small stock left on the vast southern ranch where he farms on rented land, has been dying off like flies and if not for aid from the organisation, Namibia Farmers Drought Aid, his losses would have been bigger by now. As of this week, he counted in the vicinity of 300 small stock lost, and around 30 head of cattle.
He explained that government officials told him to his face there is no chance of help from that source. The Dare to Care offer to buy subsidised feed is also now beyond his reach.

“I now have to wait while my cattle die,” he said, explaining that for maybe a few showers early in a normal season, his area only receives rain from March in good times.
“It is far away and honestly, I have lost hope. We can only pray. It is also not a matter of overstocking or abuse. This has been coming a long time. All the farms around us looks the same.
“Once the little grazing along the banks of the Guruchab River, which was in flood this year, was eaten away, we reached this crises,” he lamented.
He said that animals that could not be marketed by now, will not reach any condition to be sold on any market and cattle traders are not really interested in weak animal for the feed lots.
“They offer N$300 for sheep and goats and N$400 to N$500 for cattle. The animals are going to die right here” farmer Nel said.
He said his wife is working in town to keep the wheels turning for the family and that life is all turned upside down, spinning out of control in the knowledge that there is not much more he can do.
“The few bags of animal feed I received last week from Namibia Farmers Drought Aid made a huge difference, but what now?” stroking an emaciated calf nudging the hand that normally feeds it.

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