Farmers urge Mbumba to declare national disaster

Calle Schlettwein

Representative of three farmers’ unions met agriculture, water and land reform minister Calle Schlettwein last Thursday and proposed that president Nangolo Mbumba declares the 2024 drought a national disaster.

This was confirmed by agriculture spokesperson Jona Musheko who said the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU), the Namibia National Farmers’ Union and the Namibia Emerging Commercial Farmers’ Union (NECFU) had met the minister to discuss emergency drought measures.

According to the latest NAU newsletter, while the farmers are grateful for the rain received in some parts of the country in the last two weeks, they noted that the impact of drought continues to intensify in certain areas.

“For this reason, the three unions discussed proposals with our line minister, including a plea to the president to declare the 2024 drought a national disaster,” said the farmers in a joint statement.

The unions also noted that the Hardap and Etaka dams will cease irrigation support during April and August 2024, respectively, profoundly impacting socio-economic conditions in the Hardap and Oshana regions.

According to the unions, drought relief measures should be implemented as early as possible within a year of disaster and should include all regions and be available throughout the year.

The unions further proposed that the livestock marketing incentive should be implemented and effective from 1 January 2024, and not only during the latter part of the year.

“It is important that core breeding herds are protected through the provision of fodder,” said the NAU newsletter.

This was echoed by NECFU president Daniel Mahua, who said calling for destocking in the face of drought sometimes disempowers farmers as they sell livestock cheaply only to face very high prices when they try to restock after the drought.

“It’s a vicious cycle because a farmer sells a cow for N$3 500 but has to buy it for N$12 000 when restocking,” he said.

The unions further proposed that a special programme to ensure staple food security should apply to all crop farmers affected by drought.

“A support scheme should be implemented to enable crop producers to plant crops again in the 2024/25 season with subsidised seed, fertiliser and fuel.

The unions called for additional funds from the Emergency Drought Relief Fund for value-adding opportunities within the beef sector, as well as to additionally slaughter an expected 30 000 to 40 000 head of cattle.

“All livestock sectors including dairy, Swakara and other livestock production sectors should be included in the drought assistance scheme to help safeguard these industries,” the unions recommended to the minister.

They also called for an Agribank payment holiday or interest subsidy for all farmers with loans at Agribank, applicable to all products.

“The minister welcomed the farmers’ initiative and established a joint committee to finalise proposals for Cabinet’s consideration,” said the unions.
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