700 000 rely on drought relief

Ongwediva-At least 32 percent of the Namibian population or 700 000 people depend on the government's drought relief programme, according to the latest Agricultural Input and Household Food Security Situation Report.

The report that was issued last month states that because the country experienced the worst drought in its history, since 2012 the government has been putting more efforts and resources into mitigating the impacts of drought, which has not only affected the agriculture sector but also the national economy as a whole.

Over 70 percent of the Namibian population derive their livelihoods directly or indirectly from agriculture which is mostly rain-fed agriculture.

But the main cause of food insecurity in the country is the lack of food reserves or carry-over stock at household level, thereby exposing the majority of households to the vast impact of food insecurity, according to the report.

The report further states last season's harvest lasted up to August 2015, leaving a number of households completely dependent on the Drought Relief Food Programme.

The government drought relief programme includes the provision of food, water, seeds and incentives to farmers to sell some of their livestock in order to relieve pressure on grazing.

The main target of the programme includes vulnerable households affected by the drought conditions.

The report that was released in December 2016 revealed that as the hunger period reaches its peak it is expected that household food security would continue to weaken.

Most households that were able to harvest last season are reported to have depleted what they harvested last season and are now dependent on the retail market and the Government Drought Relief Food Programme to access food, further reads the report.

Although the Drought Relief Food Programme is being implemented in the regions, the report states that a number of households in the northern communal crop-producing regions feel the process takes too long to reach them. Some households only receive food after every three months while others have only received drought relief food since the beginning of 2016.

Households interviewed argue that drought relief is supposed to cover all households affected by drought, but is currently only provided to households considered to be in desperate need of food assistance, reads the report.

Apart from the drought relief programme a number of government social protection measures remain in place by providing grants to orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), pensioners and war veterans.

Through the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister the state provides emergency food assistance to San communities.

Government also introduced school feeding that seeks to improve the dietary intake of children whose households have difficulties accessing food. The programme furthermore contributes to national efforts to increase school enrolment, attendance and the ability to concentrate and learn, according to the programme.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia