The Namibian

Drought kills about 64 000 animals in six months

by Nghinomenwa Erastus

The carcass of an ox lies on the ground at the Okombahe settlement in the Erongo Region in 2016. Communal farmers in Okombahe, Omatjete, Okaumbaha and other areas in the region are losing animals on a large scale due to the drought. Photo: Paulus Kiiyala Shiku – Nampa

DETERIORATING grazing conditions being experienced in most parts of the country amidst poor and below average rainfall led to 63 712 animals dying in six months, the Food Security Situation Report of March 2019 reveals.

The ministry of agriculture released its follow-up report on food security on 4 April 2019, which assessed the crops’ prospects and livestock situation for 2019 to establish the country’s stance in terms of food security.

The report shows that Kunene North and the Erongo region were the most affected, losing 12 200 and 11 800 animals, respectively.

They are followed by the Ohangwena and Otjozondjupa regions which all lost more than 4 700 head of cattle, sheep and goats during the six-months period.

However, more goats were lost in the Karas region, with 13 575 goats estimated to have perished due to the dry conditions. The region also lost around 2 150 head of cattle.

The Omaheke, Omusati and Oshana regions each lost around 2 500 animals, while the Kunene South, Khomas and Oshikoto regions combined lost few livestock, estimated to be around 1 266.

The Hardap and Kavango West regions are the least-affected regions, estimated to have lost below 60 animals combined, while Zambezi and Kavango are reported not to have lost any livestock during the assessed period.

The report also indicated that around 520 donkeys and 300 horses were lost during the six-months period, in Omaheke, Kunene south, Otjozondjupa and Erongo.

Commenting on the statistics, Erongo regional governor Kleophas Mutjavikua said the situation is worse on the ground, and the government has offered some mitigating plans to help livestock farmers. He advised all the livestock farmers to go to their nearest procurement centres to buy fodder to sustain their remaining animals.

The price of fodder is subsidised by the government in his region, he said. He added that one of the sustainable solution to reduce the losses of livestock at the current rate is to reserve all the resettlement farms which were bought recently, or are to be bought, for the dying livestock to graze on. This will enable all affected livestock farmers to relocate their animals to those resettlement areas to graze for the time being.

“I proposed the idea last year to the resettlement ministry, but I was shut down. Selling livestock is a temporary solution,” he explained.

Namibia National Farmers Union president, Jason Emvula said it is time the country declare the drought situation a national emergency.

“We have to put all mitigating measures in place.We need to open up abbatoirs to reduce the numbers of livestock the farmers are holding,” Emvula said.

He also adviced farmers to sell off some of their animals while they are in good and marketable conditions.

“I will not entertain any statement that there is no money. We have

to scrap every corner to make sure that we get these facilities by the end of the month,” he said.

Meatco communications officer Jethro Kwenani said the meat company is ready to accommodate all those farmers who are willing to get rid of some of their stock as a mitigating measure.

Those who are not willing to slaughter can reduce their stock by selling off their weaners. He gave the assurance that although Meatco expects an oversupply of livestock at their slaughterhouse during this time, the company will defy the market forces of demand, and keep the grading price the same throughout.

Kwenani added that the company has enough markets to sell their beef to, with the additional Chinese market. The expected oversupply will thus be met with international demands.

On the northern livestock farmers who cannot access the international market, he said this is unfortunate because Meatco has only one mobile slaughtering-house unit (MSU) for the whole northern and eastern regions.

That depends on the retailers, the few institutions, and outlets’ demands for beef products also. This means that their uptake of their animals will depend if northern retailers and other outlets require beef products.

Due to the large geographical area to be covered, the MSU might also not reach all those farmers who want to reduce their stock in the entire northern and eastern regions. Kwenani pointed out that financial constraints and demand on the red line area are the reasons why the company has not added another mobile slaughtering unit.

However, they are optimistic that last month’s directive by the Ministry of Finance will rescue northern farmers.

That directive ordered all government ministries, agencies and offices to procure fresh produce and beef from northern suppliers, unless there is insufficient supply.

Kwenani said, as the directive takes effect, the demand for beef from the northern side will pick up as it will restrict the external sourcing of beef.