Sure, government has it work cut out in implementing drought package

10 May 2019
Following the declaration of a state of emergency by president Hage Geingob earlier this week due to the drought situation, which for that matter is not a new thing but for a considerable spell now, close to four years that the country has been under a persistent drought, the Prime Minister on Tuesday announced a N$573 drought aid package in the National Assembly.
Hard pressed farmers, both livestock and crop farmers cannot but welcome this gesture, which on paper sounds like an astronomical amount. But as they say the proof of the pudding is in the eating and the country, especially farmers, cannot at this stage get excited until the package has been fully implemented. But the sheer volume of the package as it would be aside, its announcement and before it even implementation which at this stage remains uncertain when, if ever at all, the package is already  invoking vociferous and genuine misgivings among both the general public and farmers themselves with some farming communities in the Omaheke region, and the Aminuis constituency in particular, understandably , out of sheer frustration, having opted not to make use  the package. As it may be known to some, the Aminuis constituency is one of the areas that for several times since last year knocked on the doors of the government for the necessary help against the drought which has almost crippled the farming communit
ies and with many a farmer in flight with their livestock ion search of literal green pastures but which has been hard to come by with the whole country in the grip of the drought. That the area is now that the government seems to be coming to their rescue and that of many others, is opting not to make use of the government drought aid, cannot but baffling. But same one can understand their exasperation given that drought aid has long been coming. Because the area has been approaching the government about the dire aid situation for close to  two years now but to no avail. The best that seems to have come its way hitherto seems to be empty promises, with even promises from his lordship the President himself of two farms to help alleviate the drought situation. Until and with the recent announcement of a drought package for the whole country by the  Prime Minister, these farms seem only a pipedream and an empty  promise.
The general feeling  among the public, especially a section of the farming community, is that the drought aid package as announced by the Prime Minister, is coming way too late. And it is any wonder whether, mindful of the usual bureaucratic bottlenecks, not to mention the ineptitude, ineffectiveness and inefficiency among some public officials, if the  package is going to be implemented very soon in view of the fact that is long overdue  with farmers over the country having lost not only thousands of livestock, but having also seen their cropping plans being aborted. This being the scenario the question begging is whether this drought aid package which has been announced by the government would have the necessary impact or would become just another white elephant. One of the concerns that is being raised by the farming public with regard to the package is whether given its purview of catering only for those with 25 cattle or less how these can be feasible of alleviating the situation of the drought-stricken
farmers. Reservations in this regard is how those with less than the said number of cattle would be able to benefit from the package, especially with regard to being able buy ten bags of fodder before they are able to get the requisite subsidy as few with less than 25 cattle would be able to afford ten bags. Giving rise to suspicion that only the well-to-do farmers, who for that matter have been fending for themselves in terms of transporting their livestock elsewhere or affording fodder for them, would now be benefiting from this package.
The government is also insisting on farmers reducing their livestock to the requisite number of 25 or less . This has been putting farmers in a precarious situation where they have been compelled to sell their livestock at ridiculous give-away price as the market is now flooded with farmers selling their livestock  thus depressing the market price which these days is literally non-existent. This means that when the stage comes when farmers must restock, there would be so much demand that prices would skyrocket. While in the first instance farmers would have sold their livestock for peanuts.  There’s a perception out there that the said government drought aid package must have been formulated with little consultation with the farming community and thus not responsive to the actual situation of the farmers, if not altogether indifferent to their plight.
But as it may be  the package is here but surely the government has its work cut out in terms of implementing. But such implementation at this late hour can go along away towards attempting to alleviate the plight of the farming community if at this stage the government or its implementing agencies at last can pause to listen to the communities how best to implement it, and if needs be effect some changes to its debilitating conditions, if it is to have the near-to –desired impact at this eleventh hour.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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