Food aid must reach the vulnerable

Windhoek: Food aid which has been dispensed since June for three months targeting the vulnerable people must be extended and broadened to include all households affected by drought situation until normal livelihoods are regained.

This recommendation is contained in last week’s Crop Prospects, Food Security and Drought Report of the government. It is necessary for Namibia to import a staggering 209.1 million tonnes of cereals this year to put food on the tables of the vulnerable. The strengthening of food/cash-for-work programmes in the regions to target households affected by food insecurity to provide them with a temporary safety net is also highly recommended as matter of utmost importance.

“These activities could be broadened to include less labour intensive activities such as gardening, fruit tree planting, and animal husbandry and can be extended to include the rest of the country where resource permit,” the report states.

The main finding of the assessment indicates that crops production, grazing conditions and water availability were seriously affected by the abnormally severe and frequent prolonged dry spells observed in various parts of the country during December 2014, January, February and March this year. All dry land crop producing regions noted considerable reduction in crop harvest, which according to these regions is worse than the 2012/2013 drought year.

Crop estimates in the country’s aggregate cereal production are at 67,800 metric tonnes, reflecting a decrease of nearly 50% below last season’s harvest and 46% below the average production. It further notes that poor grazing conditions, which were widely reported in various parts of the country, are threatening livestock production this season.

Water availability for livestock (rain water) is reported to be limited this season, as most catchment areas did not receive significant inflow this season. The affected regions are mostly the north central regions that are heavily dependent on surface/ rainfall water for livestock consumptions. Household food security is said to be poor as the recent crop harvest was too little and did not provide significant improvement to household food security.

Given the poor crop harvest as well as poor grazing conditions, the majority of households were expected to face serious food insecurity conditions by end of July this year. Based on these findings, the following recommendations made for possible interventions and future assistance to improve agricultural production:

• The Directorate of Research and Training as well as Directorate of Agriculture Production, Extension and Engineering Services are being reminded to consider producing improved pearl millet seeds under irrigation during off-season for the next cropping season.

• There is a need for the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) to make favourable considerations on the request submitted by the commercial dry land maize farmers for assistance during the drought situation.

• The Directorate of Agriculture Production, Extension and Engineering Services is requested to again advise farmers affected by poor grazing conditions to take the necessary precautionary measure such as destocking and culling while livestock are in good condition to avoid a complete loss. It is also advisable to re-introduce the support services such as the livestock marketing incentives, transports and lease of grazing and livestock fodder/hay and animal health package.

• The Directorate of Water Supply and Sanitation Coordination (DWSSC) is being reminded of the need to monitor the situation of water scarcity closely and where necessary to introduce emergency water supply intervention to the affected communities as short term measures. The DWSSC is further reminded to complete all the outstanding boreholes and pipeline extension works for the 2012/2013 drought programme and ensure that water is readily available to the communities.