… As silos reach critical levels
By Megameno Shikwambi
According to a latest announcement by the minister of agriculture, water and forestry, Alpheus Naruseb, a total of 60 000+ cattle have died right across Namibia as the drought continues to ravage the regions.
The figure has been sourced from the ministry’s veterinary service functionaries
Government has been forced to increase its drought relief aid budget, overstretching the contingency fund but having to cover the gap with donations from private, public sector and the international community.
Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa Amadhila met with ministers and regional governors yesterday at her offices where she told the media that the budget allocation for drought has now increased to N$595.2 million.
Government had initially budgeted N$300 million.
But thatis now more than N$572.5 million of the initially approved budget while the actual funding of the budget has now overshot the initially agreed budget that was not fully funded.
So dire has the drought situation becomes that this week, the Namibia Agricultural Union announced that the Hardap Dam had been severely impacted with water levels at a critical 14.7%.
If the rains do not come, farmers in the vicinity of the dam could cease to have access to purified water by 2021.
Government has thus gone on the over-drive and is considering investing in desalination plants to syphon water from the sea.
The Patriot wanted to understand whether the OPM had received news of any deaths in the regions yet as well as how many households were in need of drought relief aid.
“When the programme started the estimated number of household beneficiaries was 42 000 according to the vulnerability assessment.
This process was later followed by the identification and the registration of beneficiaries based on the criteria as established and approved by cabinet.
But this verification produced higher number of qualifying households which is now 172 938 households,” said Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
One of the big questions is how is government best transporting the food aid across the regions and how secure are the storage spaces so that they ultimately reach the affected.
“We are being assisted by the Namibian Defence Force who have availed transportation in the form of truck and human resources to distribute food,” said the PM.
The state of the country’s food security is under threat, according to a latest report from the ministry of agriculture.
“Because of the phenomenon of the drought, obvious it goes without saying that supplies in terms of food security in silos are not what we would have wanted.
The contents of the silos have been depleted to the extent that they are not what they would have been if we had not been faced with the situation,” said Naruseb.
At the same time, farmers from previously disadvantaged background under the banner of the Previously Disadvantaged Commercial Farmers Union of Namibia put down a planned demonstration at the door-step of Agribank this morning from 09h00.
They wanted the bank to ease down on its interest rates, bring up a better drought relief amnesty package that is suitable of the drought conditions as well as for the bank to visit their farms so they can see for themselves how critical the situation has become.
The farmers owe Agribank millions in unpaid loans while talk of possible repossession of their farmers rattled them.
The bank has said it is willing to engage them on an individual basis and has already issued a drought relief amnesty by reducing their arears to 45% which would be paid in manageable amounts until September the 30th, the Previously
Disadvantaged Namibian Commercial Farmers Union (PDNCFU) has criticized that this is still too harsh.
The union led by Jane Kuhanga has complained recently that the bank’s Chief Executive Officer, Sakaria Nghikembua ought to have reduced the amount to below the proposed 45%. The bank’s position is that after payment of the 45% of the arrears, farmers would be removed from the blacklist while the remaining arrears would be capitalized.
The bank further explained that capitalization of the remaining amounts will effectively mean that the farmers will no longer be in debt unless they fall in arears again. Yet Kuhanga has rejected this.
The union leader said the bank seems to be not acknowledging that the drought comes all the way from 2015 and as such farmers are under so much financial stress that they may fail to meet the demands of the amnesty.
They expressed that there seems to be a lack of understanding on how much fodder a single cow can take and for how many days.
Farmers have reported that they were now driving distances in search of fodder which was costing them weekly, while they had to cover fuel costs as well as wear and tear.