Farmers seek urgent drought relief measures

Niël Terblanché

In a desperate effort to mitigate the harsh impacts of the ongoing drought, representatives from the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU), the Namibia National Farmers’ Union (NNFU), and the Namibian Emerging Commercial Farmers Union (NECFU) convened with Calle Schlettwein, the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform, on Thursday.

The unions’ visit was aimed at discussing a set of proposed emergency measures to address the drought conditions worsening in certain areas of Namibia, despite recent rains.

The key proposals put forth during the meeting encompassed a wide range of initiatives intended to alleviate the drought’s socio-economic effects on both the agricultural sector and the broader community.

Among the critical suggestions was a call for the President of Namibia to declare the 2024 drought a national disaster, which further stressed the urgency of the situation.

According to the unions, the cessation of irrigation support from the Hardap and Etaka dams in 2024 is expected to severely affect the socio-economic conditions in the Hardap and Oshana regions, emphasizing the need for immediate action.

Representatives of the unions also advocated for the early commencement of drought relief measures, applicable to all regions and available throughout the year, emphasizing the importance of protecting core breeding herds through fodder provision.

They also stressed the necessity of a special program to ensure staple food security for all crop farmers impacted by the drought, alongside support schemes to assist affected employees and enable crop producers to replant in the 2024/25 season with subsidized inputs.

The farmers also requested the minister to assist with improving the value of lean cattle and sheep to meet the demands of high-value export markets, ensuring on-time payments for producers slaughtering at export abattoirs, and securing additional funds from the Emergency Drought Fund for the beef sector were among the other significant measures discussed.

The proposal also called for the inclusion of all livestock sectors in the drought assistance scheme and providing financial relief to farmers with loans at Agribank through a payment holiday or interest subsidy.

Minister Schlettwein welcomed the comprehensive proposal from the farmer unions and took a proactive step by establishing a joint committee tasked with finalizing the proposals for Cabinet consideration.

This collaborative approach indicates a hopeful advancement towards implementing effective drought relief measures and stresses the government’s commitment to supporting the agricultural sector in these challenging times.

The united front presented by the NAU, NNFU, and NECFU, along with the minister’s positive response, offered hope for Namibia’s farming communities as they navigate through the difficult conditions brought on by the severe drought.

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