Namibia: Drought-Hit Farmers’ Desperate Wait for Rain

Charles Tjatindi

The absence of rain in many parts of the country has farmers, especially those carrying out their activities in the communal areas worried. Memories of last year’s drought are still fresh in the minds of farmers.

The agriculture sector has been on the back foot over the past five years or so, owed mainly to the devastating drought of 2013, which has left deep scars into this fragile sector.

The drought of 2013 was considered as one of the country’s driest spells in three decades.

Another drought spell hit Namibia in 2019, less than five years since the 2013 drought.

The rainfall recorded during the 2019 drought was found by various studies to have been the lowest recorded in Windhoek since 1891 and the drought was the worst in the last 90 years in Namibia.

A combination of poor, sporadic rainfall and low soil moisture has led to very low agriculture production and an extreme shortage of water, affecting several communities across the country.

As a result, at least one-third of the Namibian population was left without adequate food supplies and thousands of livestock perished due to drought.

The prolonged dry spell has left hordes of livestock dead, with their owners having barely enough food to make it through the drought.

In Kunene, two years of failed rains have devastated millet and maize plantations dried up watering holes for livestock and forced a population to search for precarious water supplies.

Animals drink stagnant water in dry riverbeds, while some Namibians dig for water across the province and guard any source found with little wooden fences.

Other regions, most notably the Omaheke, also had their fair share of hardships as a result of the harsh drought.

Although many weather reports predicted a normal to above- normal rainfall for this year’s period starting November 2020 to March 2021, communal farmers are nonetheless apprehensive.

Deon Beukes, who farms in the Erongo region told AgriToday that the early showers that fell at the beginning of October have raised the hopes of farmers.

“We were happy when we saw the early showers. It is always good to have rain starting this early, as it gives the veld enough time to grow grass for the livestock, whilst providing water to the few shrubs that are desperately trying to recover their leaves,” he noted.

Another farmer, George Kutambande from the Kunene region, said farmers have had bad times that – if repeated – will mean the end of some of the farming activities of mainly communal farmers.

“We really need farming to survive. To some of us, it is not a business but rather a means to an end. So, if the last season’s drought conditions present itself, we might forget about farming as our animals will not make it through this time around,” said Kutambande.

As a result of last year’s devastating drought, many agricultural shows and exhibitions were cancelled as animals were just too weak to compete at such events. The drought left an estimated 780 000 people – one-third of the entire population- in need of assistance- while 109 000 under-fives are in danger of malnutrition, wide ranging media reports had quoted at the time.

According to the meteorological services, the 2012-13 rainy season was among Namibia’s driest seasons on record – with the summer season (September 2012- May 2013) recorded as the second driest in 25 years.

The 166 mm precipitation recorded by the meteorological services at its head office in Windhoek from October 2012 to April 2013 was the lowest level of rainfall recorded since the 1981/82 rainy season.

Government, however, stepped in at the crucial hour by providing subsidies to farmers selling their livestock, which provided some form of relief for the farmers – although many considered the assistance as being too little, too late.

Namibia is one of the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change due to the aridity to most parts of the country. Events resulting from climate changes such as drought drive the majority of the population to poverty when they occur.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *