Friday 14 May 2021
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Why hasn’t GRN declared drought a national disaster?

Previously disadvantaged Namibian commercial farmers have expressed disappointment in the government and the Agribank’s failure to declare the current crippling drought a national disaster.
The farmers opine that the bank should not wait for government to do so but should instead go ahead with suspending all loan repayments until the farming community is out of the woods.
Although cabinet has approved some more than N$5 million drought relief aid, the farmers expressed that they have not as yet received any urgent assistance.
Meanwhile reports of dwindling fodder and dying livestock have abounded due to a lack of adequate rainfall at the beginning of the season.
Whatever rains have fallen so far came too late to turn around fortunes, one farmer who spoke on condition of anonymity commented.
“Agriculture is the running sector of any country and it is the one that creates more employment and it is dependent on rain. To us it’s weird that the government still hasn’t declared a national disaster because our rain season starts from October. If you look at the rain patterns, there is no rain.”
“I am telling you, you can go on farms; there is no grass at all. There are only trees. So, for us it’s kind of weird that the minister (of agriculture) said he is going to wait until the end of April to declare a drought. Already now winter has kicked in. So even if it rains any time now, it won’t help the farmer at all,” he said.
He also said that Agribank indicated that it would wait for government to pronounce itself before it can make clear its position going forward.
“But you are the agricultural bank. You are the one who must take the lead. So, it shows poor leadership already from the bank’s side. Rumour has it that these people are not going to give drought relief, but they are going to give production loans.
Which is a loan that I must take out while already I cannot pay you and you are putting interest on my arrears.
How do these things work? So, to us, Agribank is no more an agricultural development bank, it’s a commercial bank,” he said.
Further, despite the Namibia Agricultural Union announcing that farmers reeling from the drought scourge would be benefitting from subsidised animal feed, the farmers said they were in the dark as to how this will be carried out.
Representative of the group of farmers which last year made headlines for locking horns with Agribank in defiance of farms repossessions due to the non-payments of loans Jane Kuhanga, said she would be meeting the NAU president, Ryno van der Merwe to get clarity.
“As farmers we are concerned that this year has started on a very terrible note and all farmers are feeling the pinch. And I think the interim relief that government has put in place is now an indication that there is drought and it should come to light that government should declare a drought year.
Financial institutions that are helping farmers like Agribank have also seen it for themselves. They should have been the very first ones to come out to say that our stakeholders are really feeling the pinch.
So, I think Agribank as the major source of funding to farmers should be the one to put pressure to government so that the farmers can get relief,” she said.
Meanwhile, NAU has failed to reach its target of collecting N$10 million by end of March for drought relief which is part of its Dare to Care campaign aimed at financially rescuing the overwhelmed farmers.
The union has confirmed that donations to the fund are currently standing on N$4.1 million adding that 76 000 bags of feed can already be subsidised to drought-stricken farmers.
“We realise that much more help is needed and that not all farmers can be assisted sufficiently and therefore appeal to everyone who has not yet made a contribution to assist us to reach our target of N$10 million,” said the union.
The subsidisation of animal feed kick-started with effect from Monday the 8th of April but some farmers from the previously disadvantaged community have frowned upon it.
“You are giving me a subsidy to feed my animals. How long am I going to feed these animals?” one farmer queries.
He also questioned a call made to farmers that they should de-stock as an interim relief measure to counter the drought.
“At what average must I de-stock my animals, at what price? There is no grass. How much fodder are you going to give the farmers? So for me, I think, encourage us to destock, but tell us I am going to subsidise you when the situation changes.
Me as a previously disadvantaged farmer and someone from Namibia Agricultural Union, we don’t have the same problems because those people have land they do not owe. So, what they need is that fodder to sustain their animals.
I have three problems. I must pay for the farm. I must pay the arears. I am facing possible prosecution and my animals are dying also,” he said.
The agriculture minister, Alpheus !Naruseb has indicated that government could only declare the drought a national disaster after a scientific research into the crisis has been finished and a report issued.

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