Grim Rainfall Outlook for 2024 Season

DIRE SITUATION … Photos depicting the grim consequences of drought experienced by farmers in most parts of the country.

As concerns about drought grip the nation, the Namibia Meteorological Service has issued an alarming assessment of the anticipated rainfall patterns for the upcoming year.

Meteorological expert Sieglinde Somses said based on current meteorological data and climate models, the outlook for the remainder of 2024 paints a worrying picture for much of the country.

The rainfall outlook for March to May forecasts below-normal rainfall for the country, indicating a deviation from the long-term normal, Somses noted.

This suggests that rainfall will be significantly less than average for the entire rainfall season, from October 2023 to April 2024, across most regions.

Comparing the forecasted rainfall to historical averages, Somses attributes the deviations to various factors, including variations in ocean surface temperature indices such as the ongoing El Niño effect.

El Niño is known to bring suppressed rainfall and above-normal temperatures to the Southern Hemisphere, exacerbating drought conditions.

The outlook indicates that certain regions of the country are expected to experience particularly dry conditions, posing significant challenges for agricultural activities, water resource management  and the overall economy.

In light of the grim forecast, the Disaster Risk Reduction Unit has been urged to take proactive measures to mitigate flood risk, enhance drought preparedness efforts, and ensure disaster response readiness.

As the nation braces for potentially challenging times ahead, proactive measures and collective efforts will be crucial in navigating the impending drought and its far-reaching consequences.

The Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU) chief executive officer, Kuniberth Shamathe, says the 2024–2025 season will see a chronic drought, because it will be a continuation of the 2023 drought, with disastrous results.

“Crop failure due to insufficient rainfall resulting in food shortage, and livestock mortality due to lack of grazing and fodder are the main challenges,” he states.

Shamathe says a lot of farmers have already lost their livestock, mainly cattle, while the low and infrequent rainfall was making it difficult for them to cultivate crops.

The NNFU CEO says due to the prolonged and extreme drought, farmers will be expected to pay more to provide their animals with extra feed, because there is less grazing available.

Rain-fed crop producers are in a terrible financial predicament as a result of the third consecutive drought. No production financing is available to cover the costs of direct inputs like seed, fertiliser and fuel, Shamathe laments.

“Our members are also impacted by drought in terms of water scarcity.  Before September 2024, the majority of earth dams and wells will dry up, and some boreholes will run empty. Animals and people will both be impacted by this,” says Shamathe.

“We anticipate a great deal of hunger and poverty, which will cause starvation and exacerbate malnutrition,” he adds.

Information gathered so far indicates that the Kunene region is the most severely affected in terms of cattle mortality, with reports of comparable conditions coming from the Otjozondjupa, Omaheke, and Oshana regions.

Because they rely on rain-fed agriculture, farmers in the northern regions of Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Kavango West and Kavango East are particularly negatively impacted.

“Our approach to the drought is mitigation and adaptation rather than response, but we lack the resources to carry out additional programmes that are in any case under the purview of other institutions. We have created and implemented programmes to increase our members’ resilience with the help of donor funding and government levies,” says Shamathe.

The NNFU has appealed to the ministry of agriculture and the Office of the Prime Minister to ensure that drought relief initiatives start as soon as feasible to cover all regions and avert a disaster. 

As part of the drought relief package, NNFU wants the government to include seeds so that farmers can start planting for the next growing season, building infrastructure for the pumping of water from an aquifer to areas in need (Ohangwena), drilling, maintaining and renovating boreholes in the drought-affected areas of Erongo, Kharas and Kunene. The union also wants earth dams to be built and the old ones rehabilitated in areas around Oshikoto, Oshana, Omusati and Ohangwena.

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